Fredonia art exhibition highlights paper as an artistic medium

Submitted Photo “Knowing Paper: Five Contemporary Artists Using Paper as their Expressive Medium” will include Tom Balbo’s “Rhythm Journey,” a 2011 pulp painting.

The innovative use and versatility of handmade paper as an artistic medium — and some of its of cultural traditions — will be featured when the Cathy and Jesse Marion Arts Gallery at the State University of New York at Fredonia hosts “Knowing Paper: Five Contemporary Artists Using Paper as their Expressive Medium.”

The exhibition, which is curated by Timothy Frerichs, professor of art at Fredonia, opens March 2. It includes works by Tom Balbo, Aimee Lee, Bridget O’Malley, Radha Pandey and Peter Sowiski. These artists use techniques rooted in Western, Middle Eastern and Eastern paper arts traditions.

“This exhibition is an exciting opportunity to showcase the artwork of five nationally and internationally important and innovative artists,” Frerichs said. “The artworks displayed demonstrate the virtuosity and malleability of paper as a vital contemporary artistic medium.”

According to Frerichs, each artist establishes a unique visual voice utilizing paper as an expressive and investigative means for communication.

“The artists’ skilled paper knowledge is manifested through the diverse range of concept, colors, textures, and subtleties displayed,” he said. “I am very grateful to the artists and the Marion Gallery for enabling this singular exhibition to be realized. “

Submitted Photo Aimee Lee’s “Hunter,” a 2017 ink on hanji, hemp hanji and thread work.

In his abstract cast paper constructions, Balbo investigates the spatial relationship between the two-dimensional quality of surface and three-dimensional aspect of cast paper. Balbo has been artistic director of Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory and Educational Foundation in Cleveland since its inception in 2008. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Baldwin-Wallace College and a master of fine arts degree in Studio Arts from Syracuse University where he was awarded a Syracuse University Fellowship Grant and a Ford Foundation Grant.

Lee practices jiseung, Korean paper weaving, which is used to create aesthetic and functional objects, often out of repurposed paper. Lee’s Fulbright research inspires her examination of historical objects; she tests the capacity of paper to be both itself and something still to be imagined. Following research in Korea, she built the first Korean papermaking studio in North America at Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland.

O’Malley is a master papermaker and co-owner of Cave Paper Inc., a handmade paper mill specializing in natural-dyed flax papers. Her artwork focuses on forms found in nature. O’Malley teaches papermaking at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and offers book, paper, and print workshops around the country. She received her master’s degree and master of fine arts degree in printmaking from the University of Iowa.

Pandey is a papermaker and letterpress printer. Pandey’s work looks at both human engagement with the environment and current ecological concerns. She earned her master of fine arts degree in book arts from the University of Iowa Center for the Book where she was a recipient of the Iowa Arts Fellowship. She has studied Western and Asian Papermaking techniques with Timothy Barrett and teaches book arts classes in India and the United States.

In his pulp paintings of military aircrafts, Sowiski investigates the “high-stakes and tense times in which we live.” These observations in paper seek symbiosis between the delicate physical qualities of the paper and the powerful emblematic visual qualities of subject. Sowiski received a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Oberlin College and a master of fine arts degree in printmaking from Ohio State University. He has participated in more than 180 regional, national, and international group and solo exhibitions. Sowiski is an emeritus professor of fine arts at Buffalo State College, where he taught from 1974 to 2007. He has worked at Abaca Press since its inception.

Lee, Balbo and Sowiski will be in attendance for the opening reception on Friday, March 2 at 7 p.m. As part of the Visiting Artist Program, Lee will speak about her work Thursday, March 1, 8:30 p.m. in McEwen Hall, room 209. Both events are free and open to the public.

On Wednesday, March 21, Sowiski will conduct a pulp painting workshop from 9 to 11 a.m. in Rockefeller Arts Center, room 231. This workshop is also free and open to the public, but space is limited so please contact Tim Frerichs at timothy.frerichs@fredonia.edu to reserve a seat.

“Knowing Paper” will be on display at the Marion Art Gallery from March 2 to April 8. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 4 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Funding for this exhibition is provided by the Fredonia College Foundation’s Cathy and Jesse Marion Endowment Fund and Friends of Rockefeller Arts Center.

For a free group tour contact Marion Art Gallery Director Barbara Racker at barbara.racker@fredonia.edu or 673-4897.

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