Look at these intriguing, repetitive shapes like eruptions by Miami-based Jen Stark: Her three-dimensional, kaleidoscopic paper art is simply hand-made with dozens of layers of thick coloured paper. With her abstract geometrical patterns just shown in the new Tactile book by DGV, PingMag feeds you an interview with the artist about the quality of cardboard.
Written by Verena
When did you start with your… can I call it kaleidoscope paper art?
I began making paper sculptures when I went to study in France for a semester. Since I could only take two suitcases with me for five months, I decided to purchase art supplies when I got there. The Euro was high and everything was pretty expensive, so I decided to get the cheapest but coolest looking thing in the art store – a stack of construction paper! I started experimenting with what paper could turn into and it took off from there.
What makes paper so fascinating to work with?
I like the fact that it is so common and usually used two-dimensionally… and I’m trying to show what it can do sculpturally and how much it can be transformed with such little changes. Also I love all the colours it comes in!
Awesome! “Piece of an infinite hole.” Photo by Harlan Erskine.
And the same hole – with a depth of 4 ft and a diameter of 2 ft. Photo by Harlan Erskine.
What exactly do you use?
Usually card stock, non-fade and acid free.
Does it have to have a certain quality to be rigid enough, such as for your marvellous “Primaries” series?
It is better for it to be pretty rigid for more sturdiness and this will also help it last longer.
Roughly how many layers goes into one piece?
It can range from about thirty to eighty, depending on the piece.
And how do you choose the order of the colours in the stack?
I usually buy a stack and then arrange it how I think the colours look good together. I try to spread them out a bit so they are mixed up and contrasting colours are next to each other.
“Peepholes” Photo by Harlan Erskine.
… and the awesome, illuminated “View Inside Peephole #1.” Photo by Harlan Erskine.
The Mandala-style “Untitled.” Photo by Harlan Erskine.
When you pick the colours, do you just grab everything in the store?
I get the “Assortment Pack” and use all these colours it comes with. I haven’t used black very much because the colourful packs I buy don’t usually have it. But I just got a bunch of black papers separately so I can use them now.
About the mysterious “Untitled:” Is it inspired by kind of a Mandala? How do you develop it?
It is mainly inspired by geometric patterns. I just cut a shape and slowly change it as the layers progress. With these kind of sculptures I usually don’t know what the end design will look like.
Do you have a certain method of cutting? For example, how did you achieve these multiple layers in “Anatomical Evolution”?
I cut each layer of paper one by one and then put them together. I always cut by hand using an X-Acto knife. It is a bit time-consuming, but I like it!
About your lovely eruptive “Assorted Explosion:” Is it meant to depict an explosion in its early stage?
Exactly! Usually, stacks of construction paper are sold in “assortments” of colour. So, I wanted to play with that word as well as what it looks like it’s doing: exploding. A very colourful kind of explosion and there may be many paper cuts.
A beautiful “Mold Study.” Photo by Harlan Erskine.
The “Cylinder: Paper Cut” with a solid surface that’s cut open caught my eye: Could we see the paper layers as a symbolic representation of the inner layers of people, or objects…?
Definitely. You are one of the first people to mention this. I like to make the insides very colourfully confusing. You can relate it to people or things being so complicated and elaborate on the inside. Yet the outside layer is usually white to show that something may look simple and ordinary on the outside – but the inside is beaming with colour!
An inside showing a colourful spectrum indeed…
Yes, and it can also be a metaphor on how intricate and colourful people are, both physically and emotionally. There is a lot more to what is inside than what you see. And the paper sculptures give a little window to look into…
Multiple layers as metaphor for the many layers a personality may have… How poetic cardboard can be! So, apart from your paper explosions, what inspired your beautiful, fragile paper leaves as silhouettes?
I live in Miami, Florida, and these leaves came off of trees from my parent’s backyard. They are called sea-grape trees because the trees produce grape-looking berries. I was searching for something to cut into and I decided to try a leaf because it is pretty thick and strong. I was inspired by how leaves can naturally turn into skeletons over time – losing the green part and keeping only the veins. I wanted to simulate this with my X-Acto.
Thank you, Jen for these amazing paper eruptions!