Sunday, April 25, 2021

Steamrolling: At Mesa College, It’s Fine Art

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt. Photos by Maurice Hewitt.

Art professors Wendell Kling and Alessandra Moctezuma carefully reveal the student prints at the press preview of Heavy Duty.

Steamroller printmaking? I’d never heard of it until I received an email about an upcoming event at Mesa College. Fine arts professor/gallery director Alessandra Moctezuma had come up with another bright idea for Covid-time art: an outdoor community event called Heavy Duty.

Last November, she organized a drive-through exhibition that invited local art-lovers, safely ensconced in their cars, to view a series of current-events-related banners created by local artists. Now, on May 7, displayed on the same campus parking-lot fence, there will be another drive-through exhibit, this time of large-scale woodblock prints made with the aid of a rented steamroller. 

Moctezuma, an artist and printmaker herself, said she didn’t exactly come up with the idea herself; she’d learned about steamroller printmaking online. “They’ve been doing it for years on campuses in Florida and elsewhere,” she said. “But I think we’re the first to do it in San Diego.”

Three months ago, she invited 16 professional printmakers to participate, giving them time to create 3’ x 5’ designs. Professor Wendell Kling offered interested students the possibility of making smaller 12-inch square versions; master printer Chris Lahti gave instructions in online zoom workshops, and 24 students completed their pieces during spring break. 

My husband and I had a chance to watch the printmaking process at a press preview April 21. First, plywood boards were laid on the ground, while the artists carefully inked their carved wood plates. Once they’re ready to roll, each plate is placed in a holding form and covered with fabric and a protective layer of padding. Effectively, the steamroller acts as a giant-size mobile printing press as it’s slowly driven over the artworks—at least twice, to ensure a good transfer. The inking—like everything else—was painstaking. And the reveals were exciting! All the final results were impressive, as you’ll be able to see for yourself at the May 7th event.

The inking: Artist/gallery coordinator Jenny Armer—she’s also the steamroller driver.

Artist/sculpture-lab technician Trevor Amery with his just-inked wood plate.

The placing of the fabric

Jenny on a roll

The full student prints reveal, with Alessandra Moctezuma & Wendell Kling

The final reveal: Master printer Chris Lahti and Jenny Armer display her finished print.

Heavy Duty: A Drive-Through Steamroller Printmaking Exhibition

May 7, 3-5 p. m. Free admission.
San Diego Mesa College, Parking Lot 1
7250 Mesa College Drive, San Diego, CA 92111
For more information, contact Alessandra Moctezuma

Participating artists:
Trevor Amery
Jenny Armer
Jennifer Anne Bennett
Ty Creighton & his daughter, Samantha Creighton
Brian Gibson
Wendell Kling
Chris Lahti
Mary Manusos
Jim Melli
Morgan Miller III
Yvette Roman
Sibyl Rubottom
Katie Ruiz
Jose Hugo Sanchez
Katy Yeaw

Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has written about arts and lifestyle for the La Jolla Light and other local media for over a dozen years. You can reach her at

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