An Interview with Leah Mackin


We first met artist Leah Mackin back in 2010 when we were both participants in a "print swap" event hosted by at The Print Center in Philadelphia. Lucky for us, in addition to swapping prints we hung out with her and her pals for most of the weekend. Leah has since earned her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and last year was among the winners of The Print Center's prestigious Annual International Competition, resulting in a solo show in their Philadelphia gallery space. Leah has graciously answered a few of our questions below.

An interview with Leah Mackin on the Print Club Ltd. Journal
An interview with Leah Mackin on the Print Club Ltd. Journal

When did you start printing?

I learned Printmaking at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. I got lucky in a lot of ways to be in the Printmaking/Book Arts program with a special group of fellow undergrads, Book Arts MFA students, and faculty, many of whom I’m still close with. Before that, as a teenager, I made and collected zines, hunkering down at the copy shop or local library photocopier.

An interview with Leah Mackin on the Print Club Ltd. Journal

Where do you make your work? Home studio? Shared print space?

I have a home studio set-up in Pittsburgh, but I’ve found myself pretty much making-on-the-go since I’ve been, well, pretty much on-the-go for the last year or so between teaching, work, residency, and exhibition opportunities. I use print equipment wherever I can finagle access and every few months find myself back at a Kinko’s for hours to crank out work or plot our ideas. Also, here is where I can give some major public declaration of thanks to Amze Emmons for letting me share a bit of his studio space while I was in Philly this past winter!

An Interview with Leah Mackin on the Print Club Ltd. Journal

How do you see your print background informing your more expanded practice?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many contemporary concerns are reflected in the core pillars of print: multiplicity and duplication, dissemination of information and literacy, community and idea-exchanges. Print feels unavoidable, in the best way. That said, print plays an integral role in my practice as a lens to view a project’s potential, as a process to execute an idea, as a major component of research - even if the end result isn’t necessarily a Print.

Who would you love to collaborate with?

Since a major thread running through my practice has been collaboration, I think about possibilities of potential collaborators often... (I’ve been enjoying working with my partner Alex on a project under the name DBQ, and at the end of 2016, I created an editioned book work with Marianne Dages called Ultrices.)

As a part of my residency here at Women’s Studio Workshop, I’ve been enjoying access to their book archive and have spent a lot of time with Lizzie Ridout’s book, WAYS TO talk AND YET SAY nothing or WAYS TO not talk AND YET SAY everything. We’d been put in touch via Instagram a while ago and have mutually expressed interest in one another’s projects. It was a treat to finally hold her work in my hands! Also, when I arrived here at WSW, Erin Curry was on her way out. I was welcomed into the print studio by her and I know when our paths cross again, we will certainly get into some collaborative print mischief.


Where are some of your favorite spaces in Pittsburgh (and/or Philly? and/or Chicago?) for contemporary art or design?

Just for kicks, and to indulge in a bit of nostalgia on my end, here’s a good road trip between the three cities, with a few snack spots along the way: but since Googlemaps would only let me plug in ten locations....

Chicago: Quimby’s, Renaissance Society, Calumet Fisheries, Chicago Cultural Center, Harold Washington Library

Pittsburgh: Spaces Corners, Silver Eye Center for Photography, Bunker Projects, Mattress Factory, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Philadelphia: Ulises, Brickbat Books, The Print Center, ICA, Free Library of Philadelphia, Reading Terminal Market

An interview with Leah Mackin on the Print Club Ltd. Journal
An interview with Leah Mackin on the Print Club Ltd. Journal

What are you working on at the moment?

Like I mentioned before, I’m here at WSW where I’m here working on an editioned book project through their Artist’s Book Residency Grant program. My book, Transparency, Reflection, Light, Space: A Response, is about abstracted language and is a component of research I’ve been conducting on another artist’s work - perhaps a bit of a one-sided collaboration. I am working with a 1971 interview with artist Larry Bell in which, prior to publication, Bell removed the vowels from his interview responses. My book explores that gesture with a nod to process and material exploration.