PulP Art: Exploring Paper as an artistic medium
~ Shawn Daniell
Paper had its beginnings sometime around AD 105 in China and has become a staple in many facets of our lives. But if you can’t look beyond paper’s basic uses such as a writing surface, advertisement materials, product packaging, or books, then you’re blinding yourself to the beauty of paper as an artistic medium. In Pulp Art, the newest exhibit at The Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center, a group of artists were given the freedom to paper six galleries with their creations. The artists include: Kristine Donnelly, Mary Gaynier, Travis Graves, Jennifer Grote, Matt Kotlarczyk, Sara Pearce, Margaret Rhein, Carl Schuman, Jonpaul Smith, Allison Svoboda, and Roscoe Wilson. Various types of artwork were on display, including sculpture, collage, installation works, paper cuttings, and mixed media. I didn’t really have any expectations when I attended the opening night reception, but as an artist who works with paper through the processes of painting, collage, and mixed media, I understood the lure of using paper as an art medium.
I was immediately drawn to Carl Schuman’s Astral Flower series, four sculptural pieces composed of paint and paper. I couldn’t help feeling a happy sort of giddiness come over me when looking at the intricate and delicate details of each of Schuman’s floral constructions as I imagined a room or fantasy world filled with his wild flowers. The flowers are composed of vivid colored petals and stems, vines, and thorns, calling to mind exotic locales and jungle-like dangers.
Equally satisfying to view were Sara Pearce’s mixed media collages composed of antique illustrations and maps, paint (acrylic and watercolor), ink, marker, repurposed greeting cards and more. Pearce’s pieces juxtapose images of vintage illustrations of women with various found collage materials, creating beautiful surreal images. For instance in Shapeshifting: change was in the air, a ring of women attired in matching dresses hover, dancing in a circle as shirts, corsets, and tops fly brazenly in the air around them. Partially concealed underneath the ladies is a sticker that asks the audience, WHY IS THE LADY HAPPY…BECAUSE SHE HAS DISCOVERED (?).
Other pieces worth mentioning include Kristine Donnelly’s large scale sculptures of cut paper. Part of her process includes choosing a pattern inspired by lace, wallpaper, or geometry and then repeating that pattern on large rolls of paper via screen-printing. From there Donnelly hand cuts intricate designs into the rolls of paper creating massive draping, textured sculptures. They remind me of giant lacey bridal veils, enticing me to run my hands through their dripping designs.
Allison Svoboda’s artworks are composed of hundreds of expressive ink paintings which are then torn and restructured to create large images that bring to my mind the flowers of Georgia O’Keeffe and the brain-like textures of Rorschach tests. Each of Svoboda’s pieces is an organic creation with a sense of life about them, almost as if each one wants to desperately jump off the walls at the viewer. I am also a huge fan of quilts and that’s what I immediately thought of when viewing Jonpaul Smith’s mixed media, paper construction, titled First Twenty-Five. Smith’s piece of artwork is sized at 8 x 17 ft. and is composed of strips of paper, gouache paintings, and traditional and non-traditional prints, all woven together to create a patchwork quilt of conflicting lines, colors, and imagery.
Pulp Art has a little something for everyone. Whether you’re into collage, mixed media, sculpture, or installation art, you’ll find an artwork that emphasizes the beauty of paper as an artistic medium. For more information about this exhibit, you can visit the website at HYPERLINK “http://www.thecarnegie.com/galleries/gallery.php?page=current_show”http://www.thecarnegie.com/galleries/gallery.php?page=current_show. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. and the exhibit closes on February 15. Admission is free.