Gigantic site-specific cut paper installations by Mia Pearlman

Mia Pearlman creates gigantic organic paper installations, ephemeral drawings in both two and three dimensions that blur the line between actual, illusionistic and imagined space. The process (see video below) is very intuitive and spontaneous, the result is just awesome. Mia Pearlman just joined the Paper Art trends project and now features in our free iPhone/iPad application. For this occasion, she gave us a little interview…

Who are you?

Since receiving my BFA from Cornell University in 1996, I have exhibited internationally in numerous galleries, non-profit spaces and museums, including the Museum of Arts and Design (NY), the Montgomery Museum of Art (AL), the Centre for Recent Drawing (London), and Mixed Greens (NY). Upcoming shows include the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Morgan Lehman Gallery (NY) and the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian. My work is featured in several books on the use of paper in contemporary art. I have participated in many residency programs, including Proyecto’Ace in Buenos Aires, the Lower East Side Printshop in NYC, and the Vermont Studio Center. And I am a recipient of a 2008 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant and a 2009 Established Artist Fellowship from UrbanGlass. Also I live and work in Brooklyn, NY.

How did you come to work with paper?

I have always made works on paper, but I didn’t start using it as a basis for sculpture until the summer of 2007. For several years I had been making very detailed, ominous graphite drawings on paper. Eventually I made a work called LIGHT KNOT, of a deep whorl of imaginary clouds with a “knot” of light pouring out of it. I loved this weird light knot idea, so hoping to shake things up a bit, I decided to make some monoprints of these cloudscapes using a knot shape cut out of paper as a resist. I got really into cutting these knots out of paper and soon lost any interest in printing. After a few months of trying to make “collages” of these same cloudscapes from layers of cut paper, which were stacked but never glued, my husband and I rented a house and studio in the country for the summer. When we arrived, I pinned these experiments to the studio wall and went upstairs to bed. Well, I guess I didn’t pin them up very well, because when I came down the next morning they were all bending off the walls into the space of the room. I thought, “WOW, that is really interesting.” And within a week I had made my first cut paper installation, WHORL.

Can you describe your work, your personal style?

I’m inspired by insubstantial, barely visible forms in nature, from clouds to weather systems to jellyfish to space nebulas to blood cells. Weather is a metaphor for the tenuousness of existence, both ephemeral and all-powerful, an alternate reality we can see but not inhabit. I’m extremely interested in space: physical, illusionistic and imaginary. Sculptural, dynamic and often glowing with natural or artificial light, my site specific cut paper installations appear frozen in an ambiguous moment, bursting through or hovering within a room.
My process is very intuitive, based on spontaneous decisions in the moment. I begin by making loose line drawings in India ink on large rolls of paper. Then I cut out selected areas between the lines to make a new drawing in positive and negative space on the reverse. 30-80 of these cut paper pieces form the final installation, which I create on site by trial and error, a 2-3 day dance with chance and control. Existing only for the length of an exhibition, this weightless world totters on the brink of being and not being, continually in flux. In that sweet spot where my work, physical space and the viewer come together, I hope to, as James Baldwin wrote, “lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.”


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