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Interpretive programs at parks are naturally open to interpretation, but the most effective ones cause people to stop, think, and consider their surroundings. Artist Holly Alderman has effectively done just that with her interpretation of Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, N.H.
Artist Holly Alderman says, "The surprising special effect of sunlight behind the Water-Resistant Satin Cloth banners makes them seem to glow. When you look through the back you can see the entire design vividly. Other times, in cloudy light, the image on the back seems more like a mirage or dream.
Alderman researched the site, and the late 19th and early 20th Century artist, sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, whose studio and gardens comprise the park, and created a masterpiece worthy of the master it interprets. Alderman's background is in classical mural work, but she has recently taken her artist's eye and skill into the world of photography.
Her interpretive artwork is a blending of multiple photographs taken in and around the historical site, utilizing landscape, architecture, and horticulture in each rendering. Once each colorful and enticing piece was created, the question then became how best to render and display the images.
Alderman's first inclination was to print on a silk material, something she had done before with master giclee printer Dan Saccardo of Superior Giclee. However, the tapestries would need to hang outdoors for a few months and be water- and wind-resistant through their stay at the site.
Alderman and Dan Saccardo of Superior Giclee collaborated on the interpretive banners displayed throughout the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, N.H.
"I had a show at my studio that featured silk banners of my photographic murals, and the state curator for New Hampshire was so intrigued that he wanted to recommend them to the Saint-Gaudens Memorial. The idea was to have tapestries hanging throughout the park," says Alderman. "The mural designs are site-specific, reflecting the history of the location and the character of the architecture, combining all the factors reflecting the importance of the place."
So Saccardo and Alderman collaborated on printing about 40 tapestries, ranging in size from 16" x 24" up to 42" x 90", choosing LexJet's Water Resistant Satin Cloth for the printing material.
"I love the Satin Cloth. This was the first job I did with it and I absolutely love it. It prints just like paper. And the fact that it lets light through if you want it to is a bonus," says Saccardo. "Holly is extremely creative, and a real go-getter, so it's fun to work with someone like that. I won't let anything out of this shop unless I'm 100 percent satisfied with it, so my most hard-to-please and finicky customers are my best customers."
Indeed, Alderman counts herself among those finicky customers, often discussing details down to the pixel with Saccardo on their collaborative printing projects. "We work side-by-side; we experiment, we have accidents, and find new things. It's such a pleasure to work with someone who cares enough to spend hours getting it right. He's very talented in design. I think he has the Italian talent for art, and is sensitive to composition. Not many people have an instinct for art to imagine the way something should look."
These details show in the extremely warm reception the tapestries have met at Saint-Gaudens. Russell Bastedo, New Hampshire's state curator wrote: "I am impressed by the durability and faithful full-color reproduction Ms. Alderman has achieved with [Water Resistant Satin Cloth]. Ms. Alderman's pioneering work with photography is greatly aided by the characteristics of LexJet. You are both to be congratulated."
About a dozen tapestries adorn the grounds of the historic site, and will be changed out sporadically based on special programming and the season. Alderman's artwork is being reproduced for interior tapestries, limited edition posters, garden flags, note cards, and other items sold in the gift shop, but "the Satin Cloth is by far the most interesting application. I've also found that museums, hotels, resorts, and developments are interested in custom art on the silk and satin for lobby decor," adds Alderman. "It's like doing murals, but murals for cyberspace, and on cloth, flowing in the breeze."
For more information, visit the websites of Saint-Gaudens, Holly Alderman, and Superior Giclee. The special exhibition of Holly Alderman Garden Banners is open daily at Saint-Gaudens from 9 a.m. to dusk until Oct. 31. Alderman works out of studios in Jaffrey, N.H., and at the Collaboration Space in Cambridge, Mass.