(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Beginning Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) Gallery 51 will present Branching Together, an exhibition of work by Helen Hiebert, Sun Young Kang and Michelle Wilson; three artists who use the physicality of paper as a means of telling a story. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, Feb. 23, 5-7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, and will include a book signing by Hiebert with her three books on papermaking, all of which will be available for purchase. Just prior to the reception, at 4:30 p.m., Heibert also will give a short talk about paper and her work in the show.
The centerpiece of the exhibit, Hiebert’s Mother Tree, was created with translucent abaca-based paper. Strands crocheted from cotton, linen, hemp and flax form the roots, some of which were crocheted by Hiebert, many more by others who read about her project online or experienced it at a gallery. The strands represent milk. Hiebert explained, “As the milk cascades to the floor, it turns into roots and these roots are multi-colored and multi-fibered, representing all of humanity and our diversity. The threads in Mother Tree symbolize the lifeline that connects all women to their past as well as to their future.”
Like Mother Tree, To Find the One Way by Kang also begins with a personal experience, her response to the death of her father. In this piece, Kang uses lit incense symbols, burned into 1,080 pieces of paper. Inspired by the Buddhist idea of the number 108 and the various renderings of the character Tao, which has various meanings, including “path” or “way,” all of the pages are marked with the Tao character. When these pages are displayed, a shadow is created, drawing attention to the negative space and the absence the space suggests.
Absence also plays a role in Wilson’s The Ghost Trees. Wilson aims to find the intersections in one’s lifeline where thought takes action and where one decides along the way to make a stand. In her case, the stand represents her love of nature and the ecological links that paper inherently represents. Through the use of watermarks, this installation creates a “haunting” in the paper itself, evoking the immense deforestation that occurs every year to keep up with the demand for paper.
MCLA arts professor and the show’s curator, Melanie Mowinski, said, “Each artist is on a journey, a path, a way that branches together and outwards to others. Handmade paper, made from the earth, serves as the primary medium linking these works. But each artist transforms this everyday material into an artwork that invites the viewer to see their reflection and find moments of connection in their own life.”
Hiebert is the author of The Papermaker’s Companion, Paper Illuminated and Papermaking with Garden Plants and Common Weeds, which are published by Storey Publishing. She served as program director at Dieu Donne Papermill in New York for five years and has taught papermaking workshops at Dieu Donne, the Women’s Studio Workshop, the Horticultural Society of New York, and the New York Botanical Garden. Her paper creations have been featured in gallery exhibits across the United States and have appeared in House & Garden and Country Living magazines. She has a studio at Oblation Papers and Press in Portland, Ore.
Hiebert has appeared on Sesame Street, has been profiled twice in the Vows section of the New York Times, has stood atop the Brooklyn Bridge, and has twice bicycled across North America.
Sun Young Kang is a native of Korea, where she received a BFA in Korean Painting from Ewha Woman’s University. After working briefly as a children’s book illustrator and designer, she moved to the United States and entered the MFA Book Arts/Printmaking program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pa., where she received her degree in 2007.
She has presented her works in solo and group exhibitions around the world, in museums and galleries in the United States, Italy, German, Scotland, Australia, and Korea. Her work is also represented within the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Pennsylvania, the Print and Picture Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Print Collection of the Newark Public Library, and the special collections of the University of Washington Libraries, Wellesley College, Swarthmore College, Lafayette College Library, Oberlin College, Carleton College and Jaffe Center for Book Art at Florida Atlantic University.
Michelle Wilson is a papermaker, printmaker, book and installation artist. Her works are in various collections, including Yale University, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Jaffe Center for Book Arts, (Boca Raton, Fla.). She has been featured in exhibitions at numerous institutions, including the X Initiative in New York, the Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts, the 2006 International Biennial for the Artist’s Book in Alexandria, Egypt, and at the Joshibi Art Museum outside of Tokyo.
Wilson’s extensive teaching experience includes Cumberland County College, Bryn Mawr College, Moore College of Art and Design, the University of the Arts, the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, and Appel Farm Arts and Music Center. Wilson has a BFA from Moore College of Art and Design, and an MFA from the University of the Arts. Her imprint is Rocinante Press. Formerly a longtime resident of Philadelphia, Wilson has recently relocated to the San Francisco Bay area.
In addition to Storey Publishing, other sponsors of this exhibit include the MCLA Creative Arts Core, the MCLA Honors Program, and the College’s fine and performing arts department.
Branching Together will be on view through March 25. MCLA Gallery 51 is at 51 Main St. in North Adams and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 413.664.8718, or visit Gallery 51.