Works on Paper Help Make Memories Last

There’s something special about ideas committed to paper. While our thumbs rest from texting, our fingertips appreciate the tactile sensation of a physical page. As we create and study images, our brains connect moments from our past, forming a trail.

click to enlarge "Burst" by michael Stillion
"Burst" by michael Stillion

There’s something special about ideas committed to paper. While our thumbs rest from texting, our fingertips appreciate the tactile sensation of a physical page. As we create and study images, our brains connect moments from our past, forming a trail. 

Phyllis Weston Gallery’s Paper Trail2 celebrates local artists working with paper. This memorable show is a show of memories.  

Pam Kravetz cannot get a flier about a lost dog out of her head. She saw the paper tacked up months ago. “His name is Lunchbox. He has only one eye,” the flier read. She stitched the words onto a doll for a show at Northside’s Thunder-Sky Inc., but the trail did not end there.

“Lunchbox reminded me I lost my favorite lunchbox when I was a kid,” Kravetz says. He also reminded her of losing her mother, and of Spy Cat, her son’s pet who wandered off. 

“Spy Cat” depicts the typically upbeat Kravetz as a clown holding her heart on a string. In handwritten text, she bares her emotions about her Superman lunchbox, Lunchbox the dog, Spy Cat and a pooch named Izzie. 

Kravetz usually works with fibers and ceramics. “Paper made me get it (the art) out really fast. I liked the immediacy of it,” she says. 

The clown’s bunny ears are a nod to another image on paper that stuck in Kravetz’s subconscious. Antonio Adams, her partner in the Thunder-Sky show, had drawn a poster depicting Kravetz as “Sexy Lady,” an alter ego in Playboy attire. 

“I love how much (Adams) has influenced my art and me,” Kravetz says. Her paper dolls in the Phyllis Weston Gallery sport adorable vintage clothes, but bunny ears stick out of their oversized, crazy-looking heads.

Photographer Peiter Griga has spent years exploring how memory is stored and retrieved. In April he joined Phyllis Weston Gallery curator Morgan Cobb for Disruptors at Covington’s AEC. For that show, Griga layered QR codes over portraits of local innovators. While an effective statement about how technology obscures the people behind brands, the art did not seem true to Griga’s aesthetic, even with the use of his signature honey/silver nitrate emulsion and beeswax coating. His works in Paper Trail2 — haunting black-and-white self-portraits and photos of children and old men — are what we should remember about Griga. 

This is what I do,” he says. The faces are difficult to make out not because of QR pixels, but due to the days-long developing process and the organic honey sweating through the surface. The effect is like looking at Grandma’s photos from her attic. The honey/beeswax scent stirs up memories from her kitchen.

Michael Stillion makes portraits without faces to create open narratives. His bright collages of sweaters are paired with pointy, conical and exploding heads. Maybe you’ll recall a cardigan knitted for Father’s Day. Or a stressful day when your brain was going to burst.

“I try to make inanimate objects have personality,” Stillion says. “Sweaters are something you can relate to. They make my figures more human, but they’re not human. I don’t try to put a person in them.” 

Down the trail, quick pastel studies of dancers by Catherine Richards of Hark + Hark design hang near Griga’s photos. Their art shares an ephemeral quality. However, Richards’ work isn’t about retrieving the past but about preserving and processing the present before it becomes a blur. 

“Current events captivate me,” Richards says, explaining a drawing of the Costa Concordia shipwreck. Her mirrored photo of a bouquet highlighted with pastel paint is a way of addressing the psychological trappings of what she calls “a wallpaper environment.”

Back from last summer’s Paper Trail with fresh works are Max Unterhaslberger (spray-painted abstracts) and Terence Hammonds (elaborate wallpaper designs juxtaposed with images from black history). Brian Stuparyk rounds out the lineup, but with some of the same prints seen in his 2011 Elements of Perception show at the gallery. 

Stuparyk’s realistic images of burnt toast, raffle tickets and a single dollar honor life’s little disappointments and cheap thrills. They are fun pieces, but their reappearance less than two years later feels like recycling, despite the paper theme.

Better than recycling art is recycling a memory to make new art. For this year’s reception, Kravetz designed and wore a paper jacket inspired by the disposable dress fad of the late ’60s. With a couple more artists thinking off-the-wall about paper, the gallery could add fashions, mobiles and sculptures for the next exhibit. Call it Paper Trail3-D.

PAPER TRAIL2 is on display through Aug. 31 at Phyllis Weston Gallery, 2005½ Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-321-5200. More info:

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