When art and society lose their points of congruence, there poses a problem to the art of almost any medium—a conflict between the culinary process and the actual ingredients.

Where much is made in critical circles of process these days, printmaker Tammy Wofsey is interested instead in content, or the ingredients, as it were.

Last month, I attended an opening for this artist’s newest series, Soil and Water, a handmade book of etchings made of cut linoleum. The show was held at Wofsey’s apartment in the South Bronx—a long, brightly-lit loft, filled with industrial printing devices, midcentury furniture, framed prints of the artist’s own work, and a bed on the floor, in the corner.

On offer were seven versions of the same book. Each was leather bound, about 2′ tall x 3′ wide. Wofsey gave me a personal viewing and with each turn of the page I grew more enchanted. (There is a video of the experience here.)

Her style is heavily-influenced by early 20th century German expressionism, particularly the woodcut prints of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Wofsey’s renderings of hands, fingers, and eyes are exaggerated to give the effect of heaviness, which she integrates with the weather, with the hardened bark of trees and with her deep roots, which tunnel into the ground. Some of the trees seem to have faces, though not of the fairy tale type. More like tiki masks waiting to be carved. Their personality is not contrived; it is organic.

In fact, everything in the book takes aim at convention. The twisting, churning clouds that rip through a typical expressionist sky actually fly off the page in Wofsey’s hands. Patterns overlap and cut through other patterns on the same sheet. Paper choices and variant textures switch out; some pages are cut off to render the effect of movement. Swirls of rugged black lines break wildly across landscapes, all in an attempt to render the experience of vegetal growth via soil and water.

Wofsey also uses moveable metal typefaces to create word art, which deepens the work’s experiential notion. Indeed, for as much as the style is based in expressionism, and is obviously personal to the artist, the sense of romanticism overwhelms. Instead of making the sublime metaphorical, however, Wofsey goes in the activist direction.

We know now that the universe is not anthropocentric, and that man and nature, though born of the same stuff, do not always act in accord. In treating every figural part of her work as organic matter, Wofsey doesn’t limit mankind’s reach for the stars; she does remind us, however, that having deep roots requires a certain receptiveness towards the elemental. (Brian Chidester)