Printmaker Keith Garubba is one of the Banana Factory’s newest resident artists. Garubba currently teaches at the Baum School of Art, in the Allentown School District, and at Lehigh Carbon Community College. In addition, Garubba works for Durham Press as a printer. The Bethlehem artist completed his undergraduate degree at Keystone College and received a Master’s in Fine Arts from The Ohio State University.
Garubba’s first passion was drawing, specifically storytelling through drawing. He first wanted to write comics as a comic book artist, which he currently still does in addition to printmaking. Garubba is a member of a small comics collective, in which comic artists come together to brainstorm ideas and collaborate on narratives. As a printmaker, Garubba predominantly works with silkscreens. Silkscreening is a printmaking technique that allows artists to apply a stencil to the screen in order to create their artwork. Garubba demonstrated how he typically places his imagery on a fabric mesh and then uses a silkscreen squeegee to push ink through the mesh. He renders many of his works through this technology. Some of his works contain vivid images that allow his ideas to burst from the canvas. These works directly contrast other images that he creates using a fine-point dot pen. Garubba also places many of his silkscreened enamels on glass. His pieces Flow and Ebb reflect this technique, displaying his artwork in a form that is both striking and beautiful. Interestingly, the silkscreening technique works on any surface type. This allows Garubba to explore and experiment with different surfaces.
Garubba created the pieces pictured below using window panes after receiving a research grant to develop a process for silkscreening inks that artists can fuse into the glass. The inks used in some of his works are special inks containing colored glass. After the ink dries, Garubba then places the piece in a heated kiln to bake and fuse the ink directly into the glass. His favorite aspect of this process is how it gives him the ability to layer his images. Sometimes, Garubba works with a printing press to create artwork from materials such as wood blocks and copper-plated etchings.
For Garubba, art plays a powerful role in his life both inside and outside the studio. He states: “Being an artist is different during various phases of your life. What I love about art is its ability to receive whatever is going on in your life and help you work through it. Art becomes a way to translate your emotions and experiences.” When life brings stability and balance, art becomes a matter of discipline and practice for the artist. The moments when life is tumultuous and changing are when Garubba believes his art becomes the most vibrant and exciting. He says: “If I have a good practice going leading up to those moments, the art becomes a healthy way for me to understand what is going on in my life.”
When asked how art plays a role on the South Side, Garubba mentioned that the South Side radiates a sense of optimism and enthusiasm towards art. Although he is a new resident artist at the Banana Factory, he has already participated in two of the South Side Art District’s First Friday events. These events take place on the first Friday of every month and provide the community with the opportunity to celebrate the South Side’s arts, culture, and music. During First Fridays at the Banana Factory, the resident artists welcome members of the community into their studios. These events allow members of the community to engage with the local artists and to experience their artwork firsthand. First Fridays are just one example of how the South Side’s arts culture has picked up momentum over the past few years. In some cities, art is fueled by institutions such as schools or museums that drive the city’s arts culture. While ArtsQuest supports the Banana Factory, Garubba mentioned that the South Side artists’ passion and excitement are aspects of the city that he has never experienced elsewhere.
If you happen to venture over to the Banana Factory or attend one of the South Side’s First Friday events, Garubba’s artwork is a must-see. The artist is always excited to interact with members of the community and to teach them about the silkscreening and printmaking processes. It is apparent that Garubba yearns to engage deeply with the community and play an integral role in the South Side’s arts culture.
*Feature photo credits: Ally Kornberger*