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The Evolution of Printmaking

The “Evolution of Printmaking” was a capstone project completed by students enrolled in Dr. Cynthia Gadsden’s Art 3320-Art History II course during the Spring 2024 semester. The project used an Art-based research methodology that featured: (1) an academic research component, (2) critical thinking and writing assignments, and (3) weekly art-making activities. 


During the five-week project, students investigated the history of printmaking, along with its significance and accessibility as an art medium. Next, they explored the question: “How would printmaking have evolved if photography had not been invented?” Then as a means of connecting the historical to the contemporary, each student: (1) researched and wrote about how contemporary printmakers use printmaking to address social issues, (2) identified a social issue they felt passionate about, and (3), created an image that addressed their chosen issue using relief printmaking. The project culminated in a class presentation at the College of Liberal Arts’ Spring 2024 Research Forum for the Arts and an exhibition of the students’ final prints.

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Ehren Adams


Graphic Design Major 

Indianapolis, Indiana


Social Issue: 

For my social issue I decided to focus on the discrimination against hairstyles in the black culture. One of the most prominent social issues related to black people's hair is the pressure to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards. For centuries, Western beauty ideals have centered around straight, silky hair, leaving those with afro-textured hair feeling marginalized and inadequate. This has led to a belief that straight hair is more professional, attractive, and acceptable, while natural hair is seen as unprofessional, unkempt, and unattractive. This belief has led to black people's hair being discriminated against in the workplace and educational settings.



Relief Print



My artwork relates to the evolution of printmaking because through materials different than the traditional ones used in relief printmaking I was able to still depict an important message that has the capability to reach many. 

Ashley Mintz


My print represents the opposing aspect of outward protesting and activism. I consider my social issue to be fighting against the stereotype that Black people should always be fighting and on guard. Instead, I want to showcase the power of vulnerability and the side that deserves to mentally, physically and emotionally rest. I want to show a different side than what is usually projected because for so long, we have been put into a box. But we are complex beings like all races of people with a spectrum of emotion. I choose to represent the peaceful side.

Erin Swims


When the process came to think of a social issue to focus on as my subject matter for this artwork it was not hard to decide to look at something that the entire world has been focused on for weeks. The genocide of Palestinian people is something most of us have never seen and hoped to never have to see, I chose to depict a crying Palestinian child with the Arabic and English translations for “Free Palestine “ above them after seeing a video of a young Palestinian boy talk about his future plans to become a doctor in his country but now his only dream for the future is to be alive. This artwork is entitled “The Fading Future” because of the absolute harshest reality is that over 10,000 children have died since this conflict’s beginning. 


The printmaking technique that I used to create this work is linoleum block printing. It is a technique that I recently gained experience with and I find it easier and more suitable for myself to cut and incorporate specific emotions and details into the design. Though printmaking itself has been used for several decades as a form of social justice starting around the 1930s, I feel as though this piece falls in line with the historical evolution of works with the same intent as the likes of Barbra Jones- Hogu’s “Unite” 1971 and that is to incite emotion and spark change.

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Sean Wilder

-no artist statement

[the 3 fists in black & white]

Jada Bell


The social issue I have chosen to focus on is Depression. This mental illness affects a lot of people internationally. It is overlooked by too many while being the reason that over 700,000 people die a year in the U.S. The print making technique I used was relief. Relief printing has played a vital role in the historical evolution of printmaking, influencing the development of other techniques and facilitating cultural exchange throughout the centuries. Its enduring popularity speaks to its versatility and enduring appeal among artists and audiences alike.

Alexandra Dickerson


The social issue I have chosen is diversity.  As different people look and are different you will realize everyone is diverse. Being out in public you will see different groups of people all diverse no matter where you look. Sometimes people who look different will treat each other different even though we are all people.

Senait Womack


I chose to address the pressing social concern of the Earth’s degradation due to human activity. This topic resonates with me because our planet is suffering from exploitation driven by human greed. The current trend of artificial living, characterized by the mass production of animals for consumption and widespread deforestation to fuel our pursuit of extravagant lifestyles, is creating chaos in our environment. This relentless destruction undermines our ability to address other global issues, as the very stage upon which these problems unfold is being eroded daily. In my representation, I used relief printmaking, shaping structures to depict the urban decline invading and destroying natural habitats, symbolized by the loss of birds’ homes. Through this medium, I aimed to draw attention to the historical course of printmaking, mirroring the shift from traditional practices to automated and more contemporary methods. However, this evolution comes at a grave cost to the Earth’s well-being, emphasizing the urgent need for change before irreparable damage is done.

Jimy Plowden


The social issue I chose is poverty. Poverty affects not just individuals but entire societies and communities around the world.  It restricts people of basic necessities and limits their access to resources such as food, clean water, housing and more. Poverty also causes educational barriers because it limits peoples access to quality education and basic means like books, technology etc. Lastly, it increases crime and violence, because people do not have the necessities, they need due to low income, they resort to stealing and violence to provide for themselves and or families. Solving this social issue is important for social stability, health and well-being, education and empowerment, economic growth and much more. 


The printmaking technique I used is woodcut. It connects to the historical evolution of printmaking because it uses a traditional technique to address current social issues, making it relevant in today's time. 

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Myria Wilbert


My work explores the social issue of racial injustice toward those of African descent worldwide. We are already aware that our modern day society in the western world is primarily led from white systematic racism tracing back to the Atlantic Slave Trade. In countless countries throughout the world Black people are discriminated against, killed, and more. The system that Black people endure forces them to have to work twice as hard to get to the same places as their non-Black counterparts. From my interpersonal experiences of racial discrimination, I chose this social injustice issue because it is an injustice that I live to fight everyday. My artwork connects to the historical evolution of printmaking because printmaking has been used by several black printmakers to confront anti-Black racism through art. 


Printmaking Technique: Relief Print

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