Meet the Artist in Residence: Lya Finston

Lya Finston, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of January 2020, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Lya some questions about her work and studio practice:

Lya leading a plate lithography demonstration on an etching press at Spudnik Press in Chicago

Lya leading a plate lithography demonstration on an etching press at Spudnik Press in Chicago

Q: To start off, could you please tell us about your background?
I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Cranford, NJ, which isn’t far from Elizabeth and Newark if you’re familiar with the area. In May 2018, I graduated from Oberlin College in northeast Ohio with a BFA in Studio Art and German Language. Since then, I’ve been living in Chicago, IL with two friends and my cat, Leoni.

I decided to move to Chicago in 2017, after spending the best summer of my life interning at a printshop called Hoofprint in Pilsen (now in Mckinley Park). Liz Borne and Gabe Hoare, who run the space, became lifelong friends and role models of mine that summer. As an intern, I helped them with various publishing projects, ranging in media from screenprinting and lithography to cyanotype and relief. Gabe also trained me in stone lithography that summer, which has been my primary artistic medium ever since.

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Lya assisting Florida artist Bob Mueller with his edition of large-scale woodcuts, printed and published by Hoofprint in Chicago

Q: How long have you been making artwork? Did you go to school for art?
As early as 7 years old, I aspired to be an artist, singer, spy, and primatologist (a scientist that studies primates). Monkeys in leisurely poses with double lives as high school students and super heroes remained the central focus of my work for the majority of my early years. My list of future careers narrowed out over time, but I never could shake my love for drawing.


“Lunar Animals & Other Objects,” stone lithograph with screenprinted color

From the beginning of my time at Oberlin, I knew I’d major in art, but I fell into printmaking entirely by accident. I spent my freshman year floundering around various painting classes, uncertain where to land. I couldn’t get into the drawing class I wanted sophomore year, so, knowing nothing about it, I signed up for the same intro screenprinting class as my best friend. All of Oberlin’s print classes were taught by Kristina Paabus, who I’m infinitely blessed to still have as a mentor today. Everything about printmaking drew me in, from the process-driven nature of creating multiples, to the strong sense of community in all shared print spaces. During that first screenprinting class, I fell in love hard and fast, which left me eager to learn all the different branches of printmedia.


“For Two,” stone lithograph

Q: Do you have a job other than making art?
For over a year and a half now, I’ve worked as a circulation assistant at the Ryerson and Burnham Library, which is an art and architecture library located within the Art Institute of Chicago. Working in a place where I’m surrounded by so many incredible artistic resources has been truly invaluable.

“Golem,” stone lithograph with screenprinted color

I bounce around between my apartment and three different studios in Chicago to make my own work. I continue to help out with publishing projects at Hoofprint in exchange for studio use and flatfile storage. I’m also a fellowship alum and current member of a community shop called Spudnik Press Cooperative, where I often go to screenprint. Because I work at the Art Institute, I have access to the School of the Art Institute’s printshop, as well. I’ve been lucky to print two stones there thus far, including the one above!



“Trees,” screenprinted butcher paper & cardboard tubes

Q: How would you describe your work?
These days, I work primarily in lithography, screenprinting and animation. However, throughout the span of my residency at Main Street Arts, I’ll be focusing on linoleum relief printing.

I’m primarily inspired by historical phenomena that are fantastic and surreal, but still contain hints of truth, especially when they overlap with the evolution of printmedia. My recent subject matter includes giant prehistoric sloths, Kabbalistic monsters,  regional cryptozoology, and lunar aliens.

"Triplets," stone lithograph on kitakata paper

“Triplets,” stone lithograph on kitakata paper

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
My creative process usually starts with some research. I’ll discover something I find beautiful, strange, and a little bit scary that resonates with my identity in some way — whether it be where I live, where I have lived, the kind of printmaking I do, or my jewish upbringing. Then I’ll do lots of reading and thinking about it. I’ll spend my breaks at the Ryerson looking at lots of art books, drawing inspiration from different image compositions and collecting reference photos.

Next, I’ll start sketching out designs that contextualize my subject in a narrative, and often humorous way. Over time, I’ve learnt it’s important for my prints to tell stories, for me to laugh and make others laugh when I talk about them, and for me to exercise my love of drawing.

"Incident on S Professor St," stone lithograph

“Incident on S Professor St,” stone lithograph

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I’ve recently become fascinated with a phenomenon known as the “Great Moon Hoax.” In 1835, a newspaper called the New York Sun published a series of articles detailing the invention of a new telescope that allowed astronomers to see all sorts of fantastic happenings on the moon, including bat-winged humanoids, vast plains of giant amethyst crystal, and blue, bipedal beavers acquainted with the use of fire. All the images supplementing these reports were printed traditionally as stone lithographs and reliefs. When these articles were released, people believed them, since publications like these were how the masses normally received “factual” information on current events.

A lithograph of the hoax's "man-bats" relaxing near a distant "lunar temple", as printed in The Sun

A lithograph of the hoax’s “man-bats” relaxing by a distant “lunar temple,” as printed in The Sun

Lunar scene, from a Welsh edition of the moon hoax

Relief print from a Welsh edition of the moon hoax

The Great Moon Hoax’s 19th century impact isn’t so different from the way misinformation pervades the internet today. During my time at Main Street Arts, I’d like to complete a project that speaks to these consistencies in both a warning and humorous light.

As an artist in residence at Main Street Arts, I plan to complete an edition of books illustrating the original text from the New York Sun’s Moon Hoax articles. I’ll render these illustrations as linoleum-cut reliefs  in order to achieve an antiquated look that’s contemporaneous with the phenomenon I’m referencing.  I’d also like to experiment with incorporating my prints into various pop-up book techniques.

Linoleum relief stamps carved by Lya and Atlan Arceo-Witzl

Linoleum relief stamps carved by Lya and Atlan Arceo-Witzl

Q: What’s next for you?
I have a few projects lined up once I return to Chicago. Last year, I started collaborating with some writer friends of mine by illustrating, designing, and screenprinting their texts in the form of short booklets. I’m currently wrapping up an 8-page review of various menu items from the chicken-finger-centric, fast food restaurant Raising Cane’s. Next on my list are a comprehensive ranking of the Air Bud franchise, and a scholarly review of a dark, imaginary sequel to the classic Adam Sandler rom com, 50 First Dates. Chicago’s thriving zine and comics scene was my main inspiration for this project, along with a growing desire to incorporate more humor and collaboration into my work.

Lya printing at Spudnik Press Cooperative in Chicago

Within the next year or two, I hope to participate in the Printer Training Program at Tamarind Institute. Tamarind is a school in Albuquerque, NM dedicated to education, research, and publishing projects in fine art lithography.

Q: Where else can we find you?
The best way to follow my work is on Instagram, where my handle is @thehottestdjinmiami. I also update my website regularly, which you can find at

Meet the Artist in Residence: Betsy Foster

Betsy Foster, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the months of February and March 2020, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Betsy some questions about her work and studio practice:

Betsy Foster studio picture

artist in her studio

Q: Tell us about your background.
I’m from Henrietta, New York (about 35 minutes west of Clifton Springs).  I’ve been making artwork for around 15 years now!

In 2011 I graduated with my BFA from Alfred University, and in 2019 I graduated with my MFA from The Ohio State University. My concentration for both fine art degrees was ceramics.

I just moved back to the western New York area this past summer when I finished my Master’s. In addition to my studio practice I teach as an adjunct instructor at SUNY Fredonia.

Q: How would you describe your work?
My practice revolves around the manipulation of ceramic material and carrying out repetitive actions to accumulate multiples. I am drawn to the tactility of clay, of leaving marks in the surface whether they be my fingerprints or that of a tool. The surfaces of my ceramic sculptures and paintings are usually abstracted patterns like grids, lattices, or polka dots stretched or overlapped. I change these patterns on the surfaces to create something different each time.


Pinnacle Pair, 2019. ceramic, 5 feet x 4 feet x 2 .5 feet.

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
Nearly every ceramic form I build starts out as a series of sketches done in my studio, a sort of planning process. Two-dimensional sketches become three-dimensional form. I sketch the piece again after it is completed, continuing that cycle of sketching and building, each time abstracting and changing the form, pushing against its specificity. My sketches originate from fuzzy thoughts, or flashes of memories steeped in nostalgia. I’m tapping into these feelings as I explore how my paintings, sketches, and ceramic forms can exist together.

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
For my time in the residency, I want to explore the relationship between my paintings and ceramic forms. Having gone the better part of this year without a kiln, I’ve been creating paintings with freeform abstract swatches of color. My work from early 2019 and late 2018 dealt with purposefully distorting patterns across a surface, but with access to a kiln once again I am interested to see how my time working solely in paint has influenced how I glaze ceramic forms. My plan is to create ceramic pieces that have painting counterparts. Being back where I was born and raised in Rochester, NY for the first time in many years has everything steeped in nostalgia. I plan on tapping into these feelings as I explore how my paintings and ceramic forms can exist together, merging surface textures and colors, as sources obscure and abstract in the back-and-forth of two-dimensional paintings/sketches to three-dimensional ceramic forms.


September Display Case, 2019. ceramic sculptures and paintings installed in a hallway case. roughly 10 feet x 3 feet

 Q: Do you collect artwork?
Besides work from a variety of mediums from friends of mine, I have a collection of ceramic cups, mugs, and plates. As someone in the ceramic community who used to solely create pottery, I have a huge appreciation for handmade cups, mugs, plates, etc. With a few exceptions, I only use handmade ceramic to eat off of! I have gotten most of it from The Clay Studio’s gallery, they are located in Philadelphia (but you can also order online!) NCECA, the annual ceramic conference, is also a place I’ve picked up a few of my favorite pieces. For me, there is a sensitivity, a contemplation, and an awareness present while using handmade objects every day.

Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?
I want to say my hands, but I think that’s too cliché. I’m going to say a banding wheel. When building ceramic pieces, I need to be on all sides of it and being able to spin the piece around on something has probably saved my body from aches and pains! Alternatively, for bigger work a dolly from the hardware store (so I can put a large wooden board on wheels to move around) has definitely been a life saver!


That Pink Painting, 2019. Acrylic paint on canvas, 3 feet x 3 feet.

Q: Where are your favorite places to see artwork?
I would say anywhere that I’m traveling where I haven’t been before. If I’m in a new city I usually make a quick stop at a museum or gallery. I frequently drive around for concerts, and I love to make an overnight trip so I can pop into a museum in the morning before a drive back to give me a lot to reflect on during the drive. My more recent favorite was The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh. A second runner up response would be the museum I used to work at – The Philadelphia Museum of Art. They have such an amazingly huge collection that they rotate frequently so if you stop in, a lot of the galleries are different than that last time you were there.

Q: What’s next for you?
I’d like to get a kiln to establish my own studio here in western New York so I can continue to create ceramic pieces in my studio practice. And I’m hoping to continue teaching!

Q: Where else can we find you?
Instagram: @betsy__foster


Cylinder Composition, 2019. Ceramic, brick, acrylic paint, 6 feet x 5 feet x 1 foot.