Travis Porter, originally from Missouri, came to Kansas City to attend the Kansas City Art Institute in 2003. He met his wife here in the city and decided to put down roots. At his studio, The Porterhaus, Porter combines his love of design and printmaking to create the well-known print collections. We’re proud to feature one of his recent collections, “Syncretized Patterns,” next month for our kickoff First Friday event of the season, May 6th. The featured collection combines the contradictory art forms of weaving and printmaking, and has been three years in the making. To get to know Porter and his process and a little better, we asked him a few questions:
How did you get into design and printmaking?
For me, printmaking is the intersection of two of my favorite things—art and design. There’s lots of room to play in this area that design and printmaking tend to overlap. I can mix digital and traditional processes. I can create editions or a unique piece. The process can be both heavily designed and spontaneous at the same time. Because the end result is ink on paper; the pieces are familiar and approachable to the general public.
What made you want to take Native American textile patterns to work with?
I saw a great show about Navajo master weavers at the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe. A big part of the weaving show documented the process from shearing sheep to spinning thread and mixing dye through the weaving process and to the final tapestry. To me, that process paralleled the printmaking process in a lot of ways, and I was very inspired by the graphic patterns that were intricate but not perfect. I took that process and those weavings as inspiration and began to make my own printed interpretations.
I have a few favorites. “Primary Steps” is one of them. It was the first design I overprinted two colors to create a third and it was the first over-sized screen print. I also really like the “Kaleidoscopes” (I,II & III) because each one is unique with different layers and sequences of color. But “Ascending and Descending” might be my favorite because they are true collaborations. Nick Naughton composed the pieces on press using my patterns and color palette. They are a pair I never would have imagined, yet they are very familiar.
What influences your work?
I think observation and process play a big role in my work. Process was probably a bigger influencer in this collection. At the weaving show, I learned that Navajo weavings were not sketched or designed before being created. They were created line by line based on the image in the weavers' mind. I found a similar technique while in the process of printing I call “composing on press."
"Composing on press" is combining patterns and colors based on intuition more than design. When I started printing, I would go to the press with a design in mind. Dazzler. Two colors. Orange and green. Then one day, I was printing a really great purple ink on the Diamond pattern and realized it would be perfect with that orange and green. So, I combined the separate designs and color palettes right there on the press. This sparked a whole series of linocut and screen print editions that are cross-pollinations of designs and color palettes.
Do you have any other designs or concepts in the works?
I am working on a couple things. One is a collection of prints that explore color, the 12th Street Bridge and transforming negative space. The other collection is centered on drawing and interpretations of local landmarks.
Where is your favorite place to grab a taco?
Taco Bell. Just kidding! I love El Camino Real, which was introduced to me by REACTOR. But if I gotta grab a quick lunch close to the office I go to Rico’s Tacos and Tropicana for dessert.