By: Iliana Incandela, Contributing Reporter
“Pushing Paper” in the O’Connor Gallery is not only successful because of the initial aesthetic appeal of the work on display and the interesting ways paper is used in a majority of the pieces, but because of the way paper helped execute the metaphors the artists’ constructed. The works chosen for this show truly create a coherent exhibition because they all show that paper, such a simple, conventional object, can be transformed or cut into infinite structures and shapes giving this initially bland medium a whole new meaning.Gallery curator Jessica Cochran selected roughly 10 artists that “pushed paper to its physical ends.”
One work I found particularly beautiful one of the window niches, which is covered entirely by what seems to be an explosion of tissue paper. This site specific work entitled Conventional Weapon by artist Kate McQuillen, references something this generation is all too familiar with—terrorism; specifically the shoe bomber incident. At the Jan. 26 artist talk in the gallery, McQuillen stated that she always had a fascination and fear of nuclear weaponry and the idea that recently, low-tech, everyday objects such as shoes, could conceal something so powerful and dangerous as explosives. The fact that a familiar, conventional object like paper is the main material in this piece transfers that concept to life in a clever way. The genius in using such simple materials makes a topic like the shoe bomber seem as ridiculous as it is dangerous, just as the paper transforms from something so normal to a scary narrative. One particularly successful aspect of this installation is its location in the gallery. Because of the light that comes from the window behind the slightly translucent tissue paper, the illusion of a fiery combustion is created successfully.
To the right of the paper explosion are light jet digital prints of a forest by Regan Golden. The glossy quality of the paper is attractive, and the small cuts outlining the forest’s trees and leaves make the greenery seem like it is 3D. The cuts, as stated by the artist, are metaphorical for the imminent destruction the forest would endure in the near future. In attempting to preserve the forest’s memory via photograph but cutting into it dictating it’s fate, Golden gave the 2D photograph a whole new feel and brought the forest to life in the texture created by the cuts. The trees she photographed seem to have incorporated themselves into every aspect of her project, as their memory lives on the bi-product they are known for creating. The intimate experience of the artist’s process is not only shown in the work itself, but by the display of the graphite paper used to transfer the cuts into drawings and those drawings themselves.
Of course, the most fascinating work was the gigantic cardboard vessel, supplemented by two smaller structures of the same artist. The cardboard structure entitled Buildings and Gestures, by Susan Giles looks incomplete at first glance. Giles’ interest in travel and memory was the inspiration for her three works exhibited in the gallery. According to the artist, in remembering travels, our memory creates impossible combinations and meshes the things we have seen together in fantastical and totally unrealistic ways. With the cardboard structure, one notices an architectural quality and perhaps a piece of Florence’s Duomo. Though unclear initially, the raw tape on cardboard is a metaphor for the way we as travelers pack things up in boxes. Having seen the structure without any interpretation, I would have dismissed it as unfinished and been more attracted to the two smaller structures with the same concept, done in white cardstock. These two intricate, magnificently crafted, architectural structures truly highlight the juxtaposition of reality and memory. They take the detailed and recognizable monuments and mesh them together via the simple paper medium creating ridiculously complex forms that are perched on a pedestal and hung on the wall. The structure on the wall creates a beautiful shadow that, with the white cardstock, makes the piece look as if it truly exists in its own little fantasy world.