Mrs. Mary Delany

Art historians annoy me. Nothing personal if you happen to be one, mind you. It’s just that I get ticked off whenever I read an official art history version of how collage came to be. The Cubists, we are told, invented collage. When Picasso and Braque decided to paste some scraps to their paintings, this became a brilliant revelation that changed the course of modern art. Bleh. People had been doing things, some of it quite interesting, with cut paper for centuries before the Cubists. But generally these people were women or peasants or their day jobs didn’t involve working in a traditionally accepted fine art medium such as oil paint, so they don’t count.
The Georgian aristocrat Mrs. Mary Delany (1700-1788) was one of those interesting characters in collage history. I wrote about her on my website:

Beginning at age 72 and continuing for ten years until her eyesight began to fail, she created almost 1,000 botanical illustrations from cut paper. Her pictures were made with incredibly intricate detail. She would cut out with exact precision each tiny detail of a plant—individual stamens, bits of pollen, cactus spines… She called her works “Paper Mosaicks.”

One of the great joys of my life was getting to study a majority of these in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum. They have now scanned the entire collection of nearly 1,000 of these works and made it available online.

And while I was browsing on the web, I discovered that the Yale Center for British Art is currently having a show about her. It even got a mention on a NY Times blog, and a nice review of it was in the Hartford Courant [update–since deleted]. It ends by saying “…Delany, in her quiet way, continues to influence artists hundreds of years later.” She certainly has influenced me.

Going Viral

Ok…this isn’t paper-based art, but Luke Jerram’s glass sculptures of viruses are fascinating. And he does touch on an interesting question in regards to traditional biomedical illustration. According to the website:  

“These transparent glass sculptures were created to contemplate the global impact of each disease and to consider how the artificial colouring of scientific imagery affects our understanding of phenomena. Jerram is exploring the tension between the artworks’ beauty and what they represent, their impact on humanity.

The question of pseudo-colouring in biomedicine and its use for science communicative purposes, is a vast and complex subject. If some images are coloured for scientific purposes, and others altered simply for aesthetic reasons, how can a viewer tell the difference? How many people believe viruses are brightly coloured?”

Joan Gold’s New Blog

My painter friend Joan just launched her first blog. Joan is a master colorist. Color and composition are what her works are all about—pure, joyful color. Imagine being in a room surrounded by big paintings that look like these, and tell me it wouldn’t afterward make you want to race straight to your own studio (or other preferred art-making space). It’s like listening to music that compels you to dance. Even though my own work is so completely different, and even in different media, I find Joan’s studio and her shows quite inspiring. They connect to that primal part of my brain that lusts for texture, color and the smell of paint.

Little Paper Bird Flies Around Mountain Folds

book experiments…
Originally uploaded by littlepaperbird

A while ago, when I first started getting into book forms, I stumbled upon the work of Sarah in Leeds (LittlePaperBird on Flickr and in blogland), and found it quite inspirational. The books were largely explorations of relatively simple folding and stitching patterns. Yet she tweaked them and built upon them in a way that made them seem so complex and elegant. She also does some nice, more traditionally bound books and boxes too.

I was recently browsing around the web and rediscovered some pictures of those folded book forms from a while ago. Great stuff.

Scherenschnitte Extraordinaire

papillon dans le cube
Originally uploaded by hinaaoyama

I love cut paper. I used to make detailed collage pictures from little bits of paper—very different from traditional paper cuts, but I have a deep appreciation for anyone who can wield a scissors with skill. So I was quite taken with this Flickr stream I stumbled upon, thanks to a tipoff from Green Chair Press.

Aoyama Hina cuts paper the traditional way, with a tiny pair of scissors. Her Flickr stream is a delight.

I found myself thinking about an old, detailed scherenschnitte-style paper cutting I saw many years ago at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. I think it was Victorian—I can’t remember—but it might have dated all the way to the 18th C. At any rate, along the bottom border the artist had carefully incorporated a visual explanation into the paper cutting, using words and pictures. I unfortunately don’t have a picture of it, but will attempt to describe it: (the word) All, carefully cut out and followed by a cut out silhouette of an open scissors; (the word) No (silhouette of a quill pen); No (silhouette of knife).  (All scissors. No pen. No knife.)