Paper has been in use for over two thousand years, first as a surface for important writings and then becoming more commonplace for printed materials available to the general public. As the uses of paper have evolved, artists have turned to paper for drawings, prints, and paintings; pushing the medium further by folding and deconstructing paper into three-dimensional objects or using paper pulp. Barrett Art Center’s current exhibit explores the medium of paper as an artistic medium through a national juried show, Pushing Paper.
Paul Wong, master papermaker and former artistic director of Dieu Donné, served as the juror for this national exhibit selecting 45 artists from 700 submissions. Wong described the process in his juror statement: “I looked at the intent of the exhibition and didn’t want to exclude in my selection any media that was submitted, hoping to represent the best of what I found exemplary, albeit attractive to my vision.”
As you enter the first room in the exhibit, you cannot miss Memory is a Ghost, Leah Hamel’s paper re-creation of a bed and coverlet; or Emanuelle Schaer’s, paper mâché sculpture, An Isolated Perspective. Thom Williams repurposed folded photo paper for Catch The Wave. There are also a number of smaller pieces exhibited salon style that deserve attention, for instance, Christine B. Miller’s narrative graphite drawing on paper featuring skulls and hands, brings to mind outsider artworks.
In the next gallery room, Michelle Samour’s piece, Eye Aggregation, was created using pigmented abaca fibers. The sculpture features layers of the fibers bound together in circular shapes, resulting in an object that appears feminine, including the glass case that could belong in a boudoir.
Jessica Elena Aquino’s wall-mounted paper sculpture, Abundance II, was created with recycled paper towels. The organically shaped piece rises up the gallery wall like a cyclone.
Tayler Allen-Galusha received the Juror’s Award for Boundless, an installation that takes over the far gallery wall. What appears to be a castle door and brick archway has been created with a set of deconstructed National Union Catalogs. The door is shut and locked, perhaps to safeguard the secrets held within. In his artist statement, Allen-Galusha commented that “books are much more than just the paper and glue that makes them, they are places to be, puzzles to solve and portals to knowledge.”
The back gallery continues the exploration of paper. One of the standouts in this space is Lennox Commissiong’s portrait, 2pacalypse, made with mosaic-size color aid paper. The artist on this series: “These African-descended men lived by strong ideals, faced great adversity, and refused to bend to the demands of societal power structures… My homage in small dots of color represents the many lives they have touched across various races and cultures and their political legacies.”
Curator Paul Wong commented on this exhibit: “Paper can be a material we take for granted in our daily routine; something that is becoming invisible; or at best, where we appreciate and collect it in the form of these aspiring artistic expressions.”
This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy! magazine August 24, 2018.
Pushing Paper was on exhibit at Barrett Art Center through September 22, 2018.
All artworks are courtesy of the artists and copyright remains with the artists.