Edie Overturf

Edie Overturf is a modern day American printmaker with a long history. The first time I came into contact with her work was last year, in a detached garage in Minnesota. I was in Minnesota for the weekend, but she had been there for years, as a visiting Assistant Professor of Printmaking at the University of Minnesota. With a long list of intructorships, exhibitions, and award under her belt, Overturf’s career has stretched almost 20 years. She began attending Southern Illinois University in 1998 and would graduate in 2003 with a BFA, Magna Cum Laude. She would graduate from California State University with a MFA in Art in 2006. This path of success would only continue from there.

unpacking the void
“Unpacking the Void”, 2016. Reduction Woodcut.

Overturf tends to work within a small but diverse range of printmaking techniques for her works, and also occasionally does sculpture. However, most of her pieces are woodcuts, often combined with intaglio etchings and monotypes. Her latest art series (the ones I saw at the exhibition that night), Tales of the Absolute and Preposterous, was made using mostly a combination of etching and woodcut. Much of her portfolio consists of background color from a limited but notable palette, with dark, heavy lineart from a final layer defining much of the image. It was this style that initially attracted me to Absolute and Preposterous and made the pieces eye catching.

“Homestead”, 2017. Etching and woodcut.

Even in her own About page, Overturf neglects descriptions of herself to focus on what really fascinates her and motivates her work, themes that resonate strongly through Absolute and Preposterous. She discusses her fascination with all the various predictions and prophecies about how the world is going to end, specifically with regards to post WWII American culture. In her About, Overturf discusses the parallels she sees between these prophecies and the escapism she finds present in much of art and literature. She observes that many aren’t asking if the world is going to end, but considering the ideas of when and how. According to Overturf, these people are looking for a reset button, however morbid, on our existence. This is where the parallels to escapism occur to her, and where her work lies. Absolute and Preposterous is dedicated to interweaving these apocalyptic ideas with art, and presenting the many ways the world could end. The imagery consists of scenes of destruction and a ruined earth, but it’s not just an endless void of misery. Notably, one of the pieces depicts a destroyed house and forest, but right there along with it is a woman and child, smiling and healthy. This piece is called Beginnings, and seems to depict what Overturf discusses in her About, a world destroyed but not devoid of hope.

“Beginnings”, 2016. Woodcut and Monotype.

Her website can be found at https://edieoverturf.com/.


About: https://edieoverturf.com/about/

Work: https://edieoverturf.com/work/

CV: https://edieoverturf.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/copy-of-cv-new-for-website.pdf




  1. Woodcutting seems to be a powerful way to communicate strong emotional themes. Ms. Overturf utilizes this power here to communicate polar opposites, extremes: destruction and rebirth, dismay and hope, ends and beginnings. The heavy linework with bold blacks make the pieces inherently more dramatic, which enhances the dichotomy of themes with which she is working.

    Her talk about escapism and Armageddon got me thinking. Her pieces imagine different ends, and in some of them the end of the world did not mean the end of hope. Is this an escapist fantasy, or does she truly believe that when the world ends, hope will still be present? Does she think that, were we given a chance to rebuild our society, that it would be any different or better than before?

    Either way, Overturf focuses on positive themes. I would like to contrast her with Edvard Munch. She and he both aim for a heavy emotional punch, with dark lines and limited color, but Mr. Munch was rather bleaker in his subject matter. His themes were almost exclusively dark, dealing with anxiety, torment, heartbreak, and death. He had pieces such as The Kiss that were somewhat more optimistic in their outlook, but all in all I believe Overturf’s work tends much more toward optimism than Edvard Munch.

    Looking at her portfolio site, I would also like to share my thoughts on pieces such as “Cape Girardeau, MO.” It almost seems to me as if Ms. Overturf is exploring the idea of desolation and post-apocalyptic landscapes by depicting contemporary landscapes that give a similar vibe to the imagined ones. The stark black of the main subject matter contrasts heavily with the wide, empty expanse of sky. This piece makes me feel like I am quite alone, and the only man-made thing in sight is the short staircase, which looks to be part of a whole that is no longer there.


  2. It’s really interesting to know now what inspired these prints after seeing them last year. I remember really enjoying the craters with ladders sticking out of them. I love how many implications of the craters’ contents Overturf created without showing any of the interiors. I personally conjectured that people were living in the craters. They look big enough compared with the size of the ladders that a whole family could be in each crater. At the time, I figured that Overturf was depicting people living on the Moon, which I found highly amusing. Now, with the knowledge of her motivations, it seems to me that people are living in a post-apocalyptic Earth that has been blown up with lots of small bombs. I love how these prints make me use my imagination. It’s sad to think of the Earth getting blown up like that, but looking at “Beginnings,” I can see that Overturf believes in the resilience of humanity, so that’s uplifting. I find her work to be very powerful.
    -Morgan White


  3. I found it interesting how she is focused on the reset aspect most art forms takes on. This concept is relevant today in modern art. Artists feel the compelled to demonstrate the want for escaping from reality. In Edie Overturf’s work, I appreciated the woodcut titled “Homestead”. This piece uses a deserted landscape with nothing but holes dug into the ground and ladders emerging from the infinite holes. Her use of color allows for the viewer to understand the ultimate message of how the work narrates various moments. This provides an image of the world in ruins but not completely empty of hope. Overall, I really enjoyed Overturf’s works greatly because the works are all connected to the same idea/ genre.
    -Emma Berthold


  4. The piece titled “Beginnings” is a very interesting take on the apocalyptic theme that many artists are using for inspiration. Overturf’s intention by showing, as Morgan stated, “the resilience of humanity” is an interesting opinion. The opinion that humankind can destroy the earth on so many levels but still have “hope” because they are “healthy and happy” while the earth is paying for our mistakes. Humankind’s impact on the earth will not be forgotten even after our kind is gone due to the massive extinctions and alterations to the tree of life. Formally speaking, Overturf’s sense of depth in the pieces is very well done. I also really appreciate the color palette that Overturf uses.
    -Stephanie Francis


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