April Katz
Associate Professor
Department of Art and Design                 
Iowa State University
158 Design
Ames, Iowa, 50011-3092
Telephone: (515) 294-3363

Paper: "Printmaking, Touch, and the Genetic Body"

The human genome project greatly altered our sense of the body. Now we understand DNA to be the matrix from which we individually develop. The contact of inked matrix with a substrate forms the essence of printmaking. This paper will explore the link between printmaking and genetic concepts of the body and individual identity and how these impact and are impacted by social, political and ethical concerns. I will present an overview of contemporary printmakers whose work reflects the world brought about by genetic research and development. The language of reproduction used by geneticists and printmakers reveals striking similarities. Printmakers interested in the symbolic potential of this new territory work metaphorically to examine the graphic language of science and genetics.

Involvement with genetic imagery is often motivated by direct bodily experience. A diagnosis of breast cancer in 1996 and genetic testing in 2004 led me to create prints that reference our biological foundation through depictions of microbiological structures along with images depicting environmental and cultural influences on identity. Other printmakers examine the shifting human identity through images that fuse technology with the body.

Many printmakers cast a questioning look at the ethical implications of genetic engineering. In our world, cloning and transgenic species exist; the environmental impact is unclear; and genetic databases are rapidly expanding. The commodification of genes, cell lines, and genetically engineered tissues and organisms is another area of concern and has international ramifications. What do we do regarding exchange of research and medical treatment when corporations own our genetic blueprints? The history of the eugenics movement over the last century shows mankind's capacity for evil. As our capacity to engineer the species improves, it's imperative to question the ethical implications. What traits will be encouraged? Who will decide? Who will have access to the new technologies?

APRIL KATZ earned her M.F.A. from Arizona State University in 1988. She is an Associate Professor at Iowa State University where she teaches printmaking. As faculty advisor to the University Print Society she organizes an annual, international postcard print exchange. In 2002 the College of Design at Iowa State University awarded Katz the Polster Teaching Award and in 2001 the Faculty Award for Extraordinary Performance. Katz currently serves as President of the Southern Graphics Council and was Vice-President from 2002 - 2003. Katz has been a visiting artist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Arrowmont School, Frogman's Press, University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, East Tennessee State University, and Nene College of Art and Design in Northampton, England. Katz's prints have been included in 100 group shows since 1980. She has had solo exhibitions most recently at Missouri Western State College (2002), the Center Gallery at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater (2001) and at Artemesia Gallery in Chicago (2001). She has received one dozen awards in juried exhibitions since 1990. Katz has received ten competitive grants for printmaking research and the production of an artist's book since 1995 including one from the Iowa Arts Council. Her work is included in the collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; and the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C. Katz was featured in Carol Pulin's 2001 Contemporary Impressions article, "April Katz."  Her work was also reviewed in the 2000 Contemporary Impressions article, "Balancing Act: Man and Technology in the Digital Age," written by Brad Shanks. Katz authored the 2001 article, "The Monoprint A Singularly Effective Tool for Enhancing Visual Literacy" in Selected Readings of the International Visual Literacy Association.