The prestige and notoriety of the California Centered: Printmaking exhibit has grown steadily in its 13 years.

Merced College Art Professor and exhibit curator Louisa Benhissen said she’s seen the entries more than double in her three years helping to put the competition on.

As the show continues to grow, so too does an opportunity for Merced College’s aspiring artists. Of the 70 artists selected to display their works at this year’s competition, a record 10 are Merced College students.

“It’s a juried show, which means artists pay to enter their work,” Benhissen said. “We had over 200 submissions and selected 100 for the show. Merced College Professor Joseph Tipay juried the event, which means he selected the three winners. The winners get solo shows (in the future).

“What looks good on your resume is having an exhibition record. That’s what people want to see and that’s the route to being a professional artist. It’s really important for students that feel like they maybe want to go into teaching or want to become a commercial artist, to have these shows under their belt.”

The exhibit is on display at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center, located downtown on Main Street, now through Saturday, June 1. Benhissen said the three best of show winners have their works on display on the top floor, with the rest of the competition occupying the first floor.

The competition was open to all artists from California. The only requirements were that the submitted pieces be created within the last three years and made with a traditional printmaking medium.

Printmaking was the first way of mass producing art according to Benhissen. It can take on many forms and be used through many different mediums, which is part of what makes the show so exciting.

“Printmaking is a traditional technique in art,” Benhissen said. “Instead of making just one drawing or one singular painting, you could draw an image and then manually print it out and make multiple editions. There are many different techniques in printmaking, but basically to summarize it, you take a fine point and etch or carve your drawing into something. You’re left with a relief image that’s raised and then you put ink on it. Most people run them through a printing press.

“You can use wood, linoleum, stone, metal and plexiglass. Printmaking has a variety of different techniques and methods in it, and this show is made up of all of them.”

Merced College has had ties with the show since its inception. Former Art Professor Jamie Brzezinski started the annual exhibit and raised it from infancy. Benhissen helped pick up the mantle in 2017 and has enjoyed watching it steadily grow.

 “We have people from all over the state showing in this, not just students, but professors and professional printmakers as well,” Benhissen said. “There are so many jury shows happening around the country and world. A number of people have told me that this one is becoming the forefront for the jury printmaking show.”