St. Joseph artist Bruno is excited about her exhibit at the Gorecki Gallery, CSB

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January 9, 2019

By Kelly Klingelhutz '21

Turtle artwork

 Mary Bruno describes her printing business as being simple.

 “Hand carved linoleum block + handset wood and metal type + wicked sharp wit = Bruno Press,” said Bruno, a local artist from St. Joseph.

 Simple or not, she is bringing Bruno Press and its artwork to the College of Saint Benedict. Her exhibit, “Carving Time,” runs from Jan. 14-March 1 at the Gorecki Gallery at the Benedicta Arts Center, CSB. An artist reception is from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, at the Gorecki Gallery, with Bruno giving a talk about the exhibit at 6 p.m.

 Bruno says Carving Time will feature a variety of her artwork, ranging from calendars, broadsides, cards, animal reductions and even her collaborations with kids. Additionally, she will have some of the carved linoleum blocks and pages of the intermediary steps that she has used in order to showcase the entire printing process.

 While there will not be a specific theme for the exhibit, the unifying factor among all the pieces is that each was carved and created by Bruno’s hands on her own terms.

 “I’m really excited for this show, because it’s kind of the first time in a long time that I’ve gotten to do just whatever I want, just to make beautiful stuff,” Bruno said. “Because so for long it’s been, paying customers and blah, blah, blah, which is great ... but doing this really feeds the old soul.”

 Bruno inherited the Bruno Press print shop from her father, Don Bruno, in 2003. Her dad was also a great printer, but was more of a graphic designer than Bruno, creating many logos and posters for businesses. In fact, Don worked at the Liturgical Press at Saint John’s University from 1985-88 as a graphic artist.

 It is from those early days in her father’s workshop where Mary learned her love for printing. She took that love to the next level when she graduated with a printmaking degree from St. Cloud State University. However, even then she did not think printing could take her as far as it has.

 “I always just thought art for me was just going to be a side-hustle, like just a random thing I’d do to keep me sane,” Bruno said. But nowadays, her business at Bruno Press is anything but a side-hustle.

 In fact, Bruno was featured in the book, “The Vandercook 100,” which showcases 100 of the most significant letterpress printers who use the Vandercook press today. Among the 100 selected printers are respected practitioners, teachers and designers recognized for their passion for letterpress and diversity of printing processes.

 In order to create these award-winning pieces of art, Bruno goes through a process that involves finding a design, choosing colors and then lots of carving. While the process may seem complicated, Bruno actually describes it as her favorite part of the job. Carving the linoleum block while “jamming tunes” is when she can escape from reality.

 “I feel like, when I’m carving, and I’m just in here (her workshop), I feel it’s kind of an opportunity for me to just stop,” Bruno said. “I’m an overthinker, like, I just get the gerbils going and I can just spin out of control. When I’m doing this, when I’m focused on a project like this, and it’s something I’m really excited about — which all this artwork I’ve been like so freaking jacked about — I just, I’m not thinking about anything else.

 “Sometimes I forget to eat and drink water, and sometimes I just sit up and I’m like, ‘Holy crap, I think I’ve just been carving for like three hours straight.’ But it’s definitely just a chance to shut down all the tabs in my brain.”

 This particular exhibit means even more to her because of the community it is in. A battle with cancer nearly two years ago taught Bruno just how special the St. Joseph community is.  

 “It really opened my eyes to my support system, my community. Because in the beginning, when I found out I had (cancer), I didn’t want anyone to know… I felt like ‘I don’t want sympathy, I don't want anyone's help, I don’t need anyone’s help.’ And then it kind of dawned on me that like ... I need help,” Bruno said.

 “We had a big party at the Middy (in St. Joseph), and it was insane, it was absolutely insane. And between that, we did a go-fund-me, and people came out of the woodwork, it was kind of the most beautiful experience of my life. And it made it hard to be really like, ‘Cancer was such a dark point in my life, because it was kind of like really a beautiful time in my life.’ ”

 Ultimately, having waited almost five years since her last solo exhibit, Bruno is extremely excited to display such a variety of her artwork, in a place that is so close to her heart. She says there is something immensely validating about showcasing her art in a space as beautiful as the Benedicta Art Center.

 As part of Carving Time, Bruno has curated an exhibit called “End of Times 3: Precious Time,” at the adjacent Gorecki Gallery Lounge, through March 1.

 It is a group show of letterpress printers and designers responding to the theme, and is the final installment of the End of Times print exchange series. The previous two End of Times exhibits began in St. Joseph, and then went on to tour the U.S. and abroad.

 Bruno will lead a panel discussion with participants in the project from 6-7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, at the Gorecki Gallery Lounge. That event is free and open to the public.

 Gorecki Gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday. The exhibit, which is part of the Visual Arts Series at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, is free and open to the public.