Halla carves artwork from woodblocks

Dr. Steve Halla, assistant professor of art, displays many of his woodcut pieces in the Union art gallery. ‘The Seasons: Summer,’ a woodcut print featured in the gallery is photographed above. | Photo by Ebbie Davis

By Hannah Lutz, Staff Writer

Each spring semester a teacher at Union is asked to present his or her work in the university art gallery. This spring features work from Dr. Steve Halla, assistant professor of art. The exhibit is filled with numerous woodcut prints Halla has been working on for about five years.

“On average, to carve a woodblock takes 25 to 40 hours,” Halla said. “The process is slow, because whatever you carve away you cannot put back.”

The process starts by creating a design and transferring the design onto a surface of woodblock. The carver uses a variety of traditional and non-traditional tools to carve away everything except the design. The last step is to place a single sheet of paper on top of the wood and apply pressure using the back of a wooden spoon.

“The hardest part is matching the design to the woodblock with the nature of wood,” Halla said. “Since no two woodblocks are the same, you have to be flexible with the wood.”

The exhibit displays Halla’s carvings, including one particularly intriguing piece, “The Season: Summer,” which is a carving of a fish.

“It is impressive to know how long it took him to make one piece — that is dedication,” said Abby Parker, senior biology major. “I have never seen anything like this before.”

Halla was introduced to woodcarving 14 years ago after attending a woodcarving workshop. He said he never intended to show his work and would only show his wife and a few close friends. Halla said he is still getting used to people viewing his work.

An inspiration to Halla’s piece “Becoming” comes from Thomas Cole’s “Voyage of Life.”

“A few years ago I became interested in this painting — it showed how life is a gift and we have a short window and to use it wisely,” Halla said.

Halla’s “Becoming” portrays an entire spool of string on one side and a pile of the spool untangled on the other.

It represents that once we live yesterday, it will never be the same again.

The exhibit will be open until March 6. Art Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the weekends.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.