The Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center

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It’s in the Pulp: The Art of Papermaking in Santa Cruz

August 7 – November 14, 2010.

Charles Hilger, Loving Mary Jessica, 1981

Charles Hilger, Loving Mary Jessica, 1981. Vacuum formed paper. Collection of The Museum of Art & History @ the McPherson Center. Gift of John Morris 98.01

In the 1970’s and 1980’s Santa Cruz County was at the center of a pivotal handmade paper movement which influenced artists throughout the United States. MAH presents It’s in the Pulp to highlight this influence and honor the Santa Cruz artists, whose use of paper as a structural element, pioneered this innovative art movement. Visitors will learn why the movement was important, who the artists were, and why Santa Cruz was at the center of the movement. Featured artists, including Charles Hilger, John Babcock, Susana Arias, and Peter Thomas, made their own raw materials and incorporated them into their work a time when artists tended to use convenient, mass produced materials. Many of these artists, who still have close ties to Santa Cruz, set into motion a sea change in how we view the aesthetics of paper and the importance of papermaking as art and as craft.

The exhibition will explore how these artists use the same two dimensional medium with vastly different 2-D and 3-D results. As exhibiting artist John Babcock explains, “all paper is made from cellulose fiber obtained from one or more of the following sources; bark, wood, seed fiber, grass, fibrous leaves or woven cloth. It is usually cooked and usually beaten, but not always. Different fibers and their preparation yield vastly different types of paper yet the same fiber prepared in a different manner can also yield different types of paper. It is the papermaker’s job to design, using his knowledge of materials and techniques, a suitable paper for his end use.”

The early 1970’s saw a real renaissance in the field of hand papermaking as artists, mostly printmakers, began to reinvent the craft as a means to create unique artistic substrates for their work. Their experiments led others to consider the possibilities of paper as an art medium, rather than substrate, and the first works of paper art were soon created. Santa Cruz played an important part in that renaissance. In 1972 Garner Tullis opened his International Institute of Experimental Printmaking and offered opportunities for artists to work in the medium of hand made paper which drew artists like Charles Hilger, John Babcock and Joseph Zirker to the area. Working closely together as well as independently, these artists sought to push the medium to its limits, and firmly established paper as an artistic medium.

It’s in the Pulp includes pieces made in the traditional way as well as pieces that take the art of papermaking to a new level, to a level to which even the world’s first papermakers would have been delighted and astonished. This exhibition offers our community and visitors an opportunity to explore the rich tradition of papermaking as a universal art form with roots in Santa Cruz County.

Some of the work is sculptural, some are wall pieces and some form beautiful handmade books. Artists whose work will be featured are John Babcock; Charles Hilger; Jody Alexander; Gloria Alford; Susana Arias; Bonnie Britton; Madeline de Joly; Laddie John Dill; Alan Firestone; Evelyn Hirsch; Louise Nevelson; Bob Nugent; Inez Storer; Katherine Lipke; Karen Laubhan; Charles Strong; Cristie Thomas; Donna Thomas; Peter Thomas; William Tucker; Garner Tullis; David Whipple; Joseph Zirker.


Adult Art Workshop: Papermaking with John Babcock
Saturday, September 18

Paper will be made using historical methods as well as experimental artists’ techniques. 10am-4pm. Space is limited to 10 people. Location: MAH Classroom, cost: $55/museum members; $75/non-members. Please call (831) 429-1964 x 20 or email to register.

Adult Art Workshop: Falling Paper Art Collaboration and Installation
Saturday, November 6

Collaborate with paper installation artist, Adrienne Momi to make an outdoor piece entitled, Falling Paper. 10am-4pm. Space is limited to 14 people. Location: MAH Classroom, cost: $25/per person. Please call (831) 429-1964 x 20 or email to register.