From Cleveland to Dundee

Air Connect Residency

4 July 2018

April Bleakney is an artist who lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio. April is currently working in DCA Print Studio as part of this year's Air Connect Residency exchange programme - we caught up with her about her work, passions and Scotland...

Tell us a bit about your practice in general.

I’m typically a screen printer, but work in other media as well. I run a small one-woman screen printing company so I tread the line between commercial and fine art. My bread and butter mainly comes from my APE MADE brand, original designs hand printed onto clothing, home goods, and art - but I’ve recently been branching out (getting back to my fine art roots) with some larger public art and corporate commissions. I blend screen printing with painting / collage to create mixed media pieces. I also love photography.

 Are you doing things differently in Dundee? 

Dundee has been amazing because it’s the first time (ever?!!) I’ve had the time to really focus and spend time with projects, without juggling a million other things. I’ve been continuing on with some mixed media pieces, screen-prints, and monoprints. I’m also working on a small zine, some postcards, a book. I’ve been taking in as much new knowledge as I can while here as well - Japanese bookbinding, box-making, paper-making, and the Riso printer. This experience has been expansive for me mentally in how I think about and approach my art making - I'm feeling energized and opened up to new possibilities and techniques. 

Could you perhaps share some sneak peeks of what you’ve been working on and tell us about them? 

Much of the work I’ve made here is highly topical, relating to current political events back home. While I was anticipating making more work influenced by Scotland while here, my mind can’t disconnect from what’s happening in the US. I’ve been traveling a lot this year, and the constant onslaught of discouraging / devastating / frightening news coming out of America is alarming to say the least. I’m feeling a strange disconnect (guilt?) from not being there, but getting snippets of news alerts each time my phone connects to wifi while abroad. I’m trying to be present in my current locale, but getting pulled back in with each new development back home. From gun violence, mass shootings, police brutality, immigration raids and deportations, attacks on reproductive rights, lack of civil discourse, erosion of civil liberties, etc - it’s a never-ending barrage. As an American, it’s really easy to feel overwhelmed and ineffectual (burned out from 1.5 years of Trump). I’m glad to have the time to think about and make work surrounding these social justice issues.

I’ve also experienced a lot of loss in the last year - my grandfather recently died and both of my two old beagles passed as well. I’ve made some portraiture prints of all of them while here. My grandfather series is a more integrated look into time, aging, and identity - layering his school photos over the years and using transparent base and dry pull techniques to get different effects in the prints. 

What does a typical day of creating look like for you? 

In Cleveland, I have a home studio which is a separate unit in my house so I just pop downstairs and begin the day. I have a fully functional screen shop and office. Much of my time is consumed with the business end of things at home, but being self-employed, my schedule is very flexible. Here in Dundee, I’ve been trying to utilize the print studio as much as possible during their open hours. Some days it feels like I am living at DCA! :)

What’s your favourite medium to work in?

I naturally gravitate towards screen printing but it can feel really tight and flat. So I enjoy mixing screen with looser methods, such as paint / spray paint / monoprint / collage. I love photography as well, and often use altered photographic images as layers in my screen prints. I’ve also been getting back to my drawing roots with more hand drawn elements in my prints. 

What was on your must do in Dundee list? Are you going to travel anywhere else in Scotland? 

Ahhhh - I’ve been working so much in the amazing studio, there are many things in Dundee I still need to see! After I sloughed off the jet lag and allergy attack during my first week here, I got my momentum going in the Print Studio and I’ve been there as much as possible. I am staying on an extra week or so after the residency, so I will get to travel around a bit. So far, I’ve explored Dundee, Arbroath, and Fife (Anstruther, St. Andrews, Falkland, etc.). I have plans for Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the Highlands. Will also be visiting Ireland before heading back to Cleveland! 

Enjoy the rest of your stay and trip, April! We've loved having you at DCA. If you're interested in seeing more of April's work visit her Etsy shop APE MADE or take a look at her Instagram. April's work shows off many of the exciting possibilities available within our Print Studio: Screen Printing, Risograph, Bookbinding, Watercolour Monoprinting (plus Chine Collé) to name but a few. We know that many of these courses are currently sold out but our new Get Creative guide comes out in August, so watch this space to see what courses are coming up! 

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