In an era where the term “paperless” is increasingly part of common parlance, a celebration of paper is a welcome respite. Paper has been in existence for centuries, and as a material it seems to possess endless possibility.
The creation and processes of creating paper, especially the handmade paper produced at Dieu Donné and other paper mills, requires its own time as it is a slow process with various stages, steps, materials, and equipment. Handmade paper is an art, one that takes on different characteristics, properties, and forms to reflect the creativity, skill, ideas, and excitement of the artists, paper makers, and publishers in whose hands this process thrives.
Dieu Donné, the premier paper mill in the United States and a vital center for artistic production since its founding in 1976, has inspired artists such as Jim Hodges (who described it as a “perfect laboratory where ideas and materials mix in a sloshy slippery world of possibilities”) to achieve new discoveries. This survey exhibition shows artists of various eras with different concerns, methods, aesthetics, styles, processes and intentions, all of whom found the freedom, support and expertise at Dieu Donné to pursue a unifying goal: to pursue artistic excellence through experimentation.
Some artists, such as Richard Tuttle, have engaged paper over decades and it is fundamental to their process, while for others their primary association is with different means, such as sculpture, installation art, or painting. As with Tuttle, James Siena and Arlene Shechet have made multiple projects at Dieu Donné, each time pursuing a new path while building on previous experiences and knowledge.
This diversity is reflected in works, some of which are three-dimensional (even suspended from the ceiling as in Alan Shields’s Me in 3D), some that incorporate photography and photo-based elements as in Glenn Ligon’s work. Others artists such as Suzanne McClelland and B. Wurtz reflect an engagement with motifs explored in other forms, such as installation and sculpture. Some work is unique, others are examples of an edition. All of the art reflects the spirit of collaboration, the excitement of experimentation, and the myriad possibilities inherent in the process of hand papermaking.