The HoMA community recently suffered a great loss as beloved friend, teacher and colleague Dodie Warren passed away. Warren is well-remembered by her impact on the local printmaking community—both through her warm personality and beautiful artwork.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1929, Warren attended Chatham College and graduated in 1950 with a BA in zoology. She worked as a scientific illustrator on the mainland, moving to the islands in 1965. Four years later, she took up printmaking. In 1979, Warren completed her MFA from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and began to focus mainly on mezzotints, which she later became well-known for.
Earlier this year, the museum featured Warren’s work in the exhibition Shadow Play: Mezzotints by Dodie Warren, on view from March 29 to June 24 in the Works on Paper Gallery. The exhibition displayed Warren’s impressive collection of mezzotints, which is when an image surfaces from dark to light through a tedious, labor-intensive technique involving a rocker and copperplate. Her mezzotints, which took hours to rock, capture light as beautifully as a photograph. Shady gardens, downward views of staircases and sunlit windows, Warren’s art evokes a sense of tranquility and contemplation in an almost unreplicable capability.
As an artist, Warren was self-taught. The genesis of her anatomy drawing background was studying pictures of sculptures in encyclopedias. Later, she stumbled upon an 18th-century book containing mezzotints. Intrigued, she looked for someone in Hawai‘i who could teach her more about the process but to no avail. So she took it upon herself. Through research and finding the proper tools, she mastered the arduous skill on her own.
Warren found her subject matter through her daily life—like staircases at Linekona and the interior of her Kailua studio—and extensive travels. She had seen much of the globe, from Japan to Rome.
She also generously shared her knowledge with others. Starting in 1976, she was an instructor at the Art School, teaching watercolor and later printmaking.
“In the class, we could work with a variety of intaglio (etching) media, but Dodie’s special contribution was to prepare the studio several times each term for photogravure, another exacting medium that required special equipment and chemistry,” former student Marcia Morse says. “It seemed like there was nothing Dodie didn’t know about intaglio printmaking, and she was always generous in sharing information and commentary. She also helped to create a working environment that became a real community. We all loved and admired her—and I think we also felt that working with her was a real and enduring gift.”
Warren’s relationship with HoMA was longstanding. Her first solo exhibition was 27 years ago in 1991, called Light in Interior Spaces: The Graphic Art of Dodie Warren. “The Academy is pleased to exhibit such a richly illuminated and mysteriously evocative body of work…” the 1991 HoMA Calendar News read. In this article, she was aptly called a “printmaker’s printmaker.”
“I started printmaking with Dodie many years ago during an interim session at U.H. and she was an inspiration from the beginning,” fellow printmaker Shirley Hasenyager says. “Her grasp of the medium, her patience, and wonderful design sense were all exceptional. When introduced to etching she said it was love at first scratch.”