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In praise of pulp

“Paper Arts” exhibition & Diana Bryan retrospective at GCCA in Catskill

by Paul Smart
January 20, 2011 12:00 PM | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Illustration of the folktale “Baba Yaga”, digitally enhanced cut-paper construction by Diana Bryan
Illustration of the folktale “Baba Yaga”, digitally enhanced cut-paper construction by Diana Bryan
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Paper: It once seemed ubiquitous, crumpled up in our pockets, piled high on desks. It filled bookshelves and stained our fingers every morning and afternoon when we handled it to catch the news that affected our lives. Now it’s becoming more precious, replaced by digital imagery, various inner-lit screens, handheld and desk-propped. Surprisingly, we can see the stuff anew. It’s becoming its own art medium.

Two exhibits open at the Greene County Council for the Arts (GCCA) in Catskill this Saturday, January 22 that demonstrate this new phenomenon. “Paper Arts,” featuring ten artists working up and down the Hudson Valley, shows what happens when the medium is folded, cut, molded and cast, forced into innovative handmade pages and books and allowed to be so much more than a flat surface on which to make markings with various other substances. “Diana Bryan’s Universe,” meanwhile, is the first posthumous exhibition by one of the region’s most beloved artists, whose paper cutout fantasies and expositions graced many a publication’s pages and cover, while also appearing in metal cutout forms in venues from the City north to Albany. Both exhibits were curated by Fawn Potash, GCCA’s Visual Arts director (and for the sake of full disclosure, this reporter’s beloved wife), with an eye to diversity of processes, styles and effects.

The main “Paper Arts” show includes Ulster emotional Surrealist Elin Menzies’ cut-paper animal legends; Susan Miller’s collaged nature studies; Greene County sculptor Sherell Jacobson’s Minimalist freestanding mixtures of cast-paper forms with wood and metal found objects; wild new origami interpretations by Ruby Silvious and Itoko Kobayashi; Carol Swierzowski’s abstract wall-hung egg-container constructions; writer/visual artist Valerie Richmond’s paper tree and writing instruments installation; and Luis Aleman and Jeffrey Moore’s Upcycled Newspaper Vases, which turn issues of The New York Times into shapely bottle forms. Highlighting it all will be the first regional showing of works by the Woodstock-based artist du jour in New York, sculptor Arlene Shechet. It’s a series of complex yet simply stunning works that translate Buddhist symbols and stupas to the cobalt palette of Flow Blue porcelain and architectural plans, made at the legendary Dieu Donné Papermill in New York City.

Upstairs, Diana Bryan – the late artist known as much for her environmental activism and teaching as for her books, illustrations and sculptures – is given full due. Bryan, who lived from 1942 to 2010, viewed her work as a hybrid among social activism, cultural anthropology, whimsy and humor. Through exquisitely detailed paper cutouts, her illustrations appeared in Rolling Stone and the Wall Street Journal, as well as on the walls of the New York Public Library (NYPL) and in the award-winning Rabbit Ears video series narrated by Raul Julia and Jodie Foster. Among well-known highlights were her illustrations for a NYPL “Books of the Century” exhibit in 1995, as well as more recent commissions for regional county and town governments. “It can involve fear and suspense, darker emotions or even lust, but my work is also quite often very humorous,” she said of her Muses, her effects.

Combined with all the Paper Arts downstairs, this is a cathartic show: light as…well, paper, but also solid as all art can and should be. It will be up through March 5, with an opening reception on Saturday, January 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. Located at 398 Main Street in Catskill, the gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each weekday, plus Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. For further information call (518) 943-3400 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (518) 943-3400      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or visit www.greenearts.org.

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