By Bob Hicks
The new baby arrived the other day, and it’s a whopper: 12.2 inches long, 10.3 inches across, almost 2 inches thick and 8.5 pounds. It came after a labor so long you don’t want to contemplate it, but when it finally arrived it came out handsome and beautifully illustrated.
Coffee tables across America have been put on alert: Brace yourselves. The new kid’s big.
Beth Van Hoesen: Catalogue RaisonnÃ© of Limited-Edition Prints, Books, and Portfolios has just been published by Hudson Hills Press, in association with the Oakland Museum of California, Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin, and the University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames.
Van Hoesen, who died late last year at age 84, was a longtime San Francisco artist who specialized in printmaking, taking as her subject the small things of life: animals, insects, flowers, babies, fruits and vegetables, dolls, portraits. She also drew and made prints of a lot of nudes — a portfolio of her male nudes was one of the first projects published by the Bay Area’s fabled Crown Press — and completed a little-known but highly intriguing series of portraits of people from the punk scene in San Francisco’s Castro District, near the old firehouse where Van Hoesen and her husband, the tapestry designer and watercolorist Mark Adams, lived and worked for close to 50 years. Physical veracity was extremely important to her, and in the best of her work that attention to truthfulness was much more than skin-deep.
I wrote what became the catalogue’s lead essay, Becoming Perfect, which is primarily about Van Hoesen’s drawings, both finished pieces and preparatory drawings for her hundreds of prints. In the end, her work is really about the magic of the line, and getting it right.