Off the page: Silvermine Arts Center showcases paper in art

A new exhibit, “Paper 2019,” is set to debut at the Silvermine Arts Center with the goal to highlight a particular material — prints, drawings, photographs, artists’ books, and handmade paper as well as three-dimensional works made with paper —and consider it in the broadest terms.

“We took a look at our history and Silvermine used to have big photography and printmaking exhibitions, and we wanted to find a way to incorporate the two — and be more broad at the same time,” said Roger Mudre, Silvermine Gallery director. “We thought it would be a new and fresh way of looking at art — to focus on one medium.”

The show, which will run through May 16, will be curated by Jennifer Farrell, associate curator of drawings and prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“The goal was to show the diversity and vitality of works on paper,” Farrell said. “I was looking for a variety of things, key “among them being artistic excellence. I reviewed jpegs that were submitted electronically and then, once a selection was made, visited Silvermine to see the works in person.”

The works in the exhibition don’t represent any particular aesthetic and is not tied to any one practice or style, so Farrell hopes people just see the possibilities that can be done with paper.

“We could have made a whole show out of nonrepresentational work, but we wanted to show a wide range — conceptual, abstract, printing, drawing, photography,” she said.

For example, she describes photographer Leandre Jackson’s work as having a vitality and a dynamic quality.

“There’s an intimacy she captures,” Farrell said. “In one, the water from the hydrant and the joy of the summer in the city; in another, light of a spiritual quality over the singers.”

Then there’s Susan Siegel’s prints, with the Woodstock, N.Y., artist winning an honorable mention for her drypoint and etching.

“In these images of animals, you see the use of frenetic energized line,” Farrell said. “The figures seem to appear and dissolve at the same time. These are non-sentimental views, movement studies.”

Donna Forma, an artist from Southport, took home Best in Show for a sculpture that Farrell said “challenges ideas of what paper can do. It moves into 3-dimensionality and engages whatever space it is in.”

Other honorable mentions went to New Rochelle, N.Y., artist Jennifer Cadoff for her ink drawing on paper and Philadelphia photographer Leandre Jackson.

“In a period when so many artists are creating digital and multimedia art, a celebration of paper, a material that has been in existence for centuries, and the seemingly infinite possibilities it possesses is important and a welcome contrast,” Farrell said. “This display was designed to show diverse possibilities for works of paper and to reflect different concerns, methods, aesthetics, styles, processes and intentions the artists may have.”

In all, the show will showcase close to 100 works created by 71 artists across the country.

“With this group of submissions, we’ve seen some interest coming in from artists in other countries, too, so that is something to think about — making future competitions international,” Mudre said.

Anita Gangi Balkun, who teaches and has her home studio in West Hartford, feels paper and everyday materials give the artist a chance to transform and surprise the viewer, and this is what she set out to do with her work in the show.

“Page Flutters, a triptych composed of book pages from the ‘Works of Robert Louis Stevenson’ copyright 1906, straddles a fine line between the actions of building and destruction because of the fragility of the century old pages,” she said. “These layered pages are ‘sliced’ into thin strands before being assembled onto blocks [for support]. They now jut forward, no longer lying passive or bound together in sequential order, defying their previous state.”

Digital photographer Elisa Keogh of Norwalk will have two Polaroid photographs in the show, featuring discarded paper that is commonplace in everyday lives.

“Each are displayed showing the Polaroid as an object, making the Polaroid paper as important, if not more so, as the photographic image,” she said. “As a photographer, I most often print on paper. However, what many people don’t realize is that different photographic papers produce different results and so finding the right paper for each project is integral to the finished piece.”

Ann Chernow of Westport will have a lithograph titled “Laura” in the show.

“It was created on one stone using Korn’s lithographic pencils and razor blades,” she said. “It is one of 15 in a series based on American ‘Noir’ films of the 1940s.”

Norwalk-based artist Katharine Draper will be showcasing a monotype creating one unique piece.

“I have been working the theme of weaving trying to create movement and dimension,” she said. “This piece has many layers of ink printed from a matrix. Printing on paper has a unique quality and also some surprises as you never know exactly how the print will come out. I have always liked doing art and have been serious about it for about 20 years and my 40-year study of Japanese flower arranging influences my work and sets it apart.”

The Silvermine School of Art is also hosting one and two-day workshops running in tangent with the exhibition, exploring special studies in paper arts including bookbinding, book art and garden journaling.

The next exhibition in this series will focus on Fiber Art. For more information, visit silvermineart.org.

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