At a distance, the small, all-white room in the corner of the gallery appears to invite visitors to rest a bit — as long as they don’t dirty the upholstery.
Don’t even try it.
The furniture, accessories, even the rug have been crafted completely from paper.
It’s part of the biennial “Art on Paper” exhibition at UNC-Greensboro’s Weatherspoon Art Museum.
This 45th “Art on Paper” exhibition will launch with a private preview party Saturday. It then will open to the public from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday and run through May 5.
The exhibition will showcase 63 one-of-a-kind works on or of paper, created by 24 artists from across the country.
“It’s a material that a lot of artists use because it’s readily available and it’s somewhat cheap,” said Elaine D. Gustafson, Weatherspoon’s curator of collections who has selected works to be displayed. “But a lot of these artists are doing so many different approaches with the paper, that it’s really amazing.”
Several live in North Carolina; some teach at area universities: Kate Gordon and Sheryl Oring at UNCG, Antoine Williams at Guilford College and Elizabeth Alexander at UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.
The exhibition represents the museum’s 45-year partnership with the former Dillard Paper Co., later Xpedx and now the Dillard Fund.
The initial $10,000 gift from Stark Dillard enabled the museum to acquire works to start the Dillard Collection of Art on Paper there.
The collection now numbers close to 600 items, including work by known artists Louise Bourgeois, Brice Marden, Knox Martin, Joan Mitchell, Robert Smithson, Frank Stella, Eva Hesse and Amy Cutler.
The exhibition gives the Weatherspoon the opportunity to buy more for its collection.
But it also enables the community to buy contemporary works from up-and-coming artists.
People unsure of what to buy here or elsewhere can attend an April 11 program that is part of the exhibition: “Art Collecting 101.”
“It’s educating people about what’s out there and getting them comfortable with some of the vocabulary as well,” Gustafson said.
Gustafson has curated other shows at the Weatherspoon. This marks the first time she has curated “Art on Paper.”
Here are excerpts from an interview, edited for space.
What was it like to curate this exhibition?
It’s a little overwhelming because of the number of entries we get. The show is known nationally and I even had a couple of people internationally call me or email me about applying. Lots of people apply and you have to go through all the material to make your selection. It’s a great opportunity to see what artists are working on these days, but the sheer number of entries can be overwhelming.
We received over 200 artists, and they were allowed to submit eight visuals each, plus a resume, plus an artist’s statement.
You narrowed it down to 24 artists?
Correct. There’s a couple of artists who only have one work. That’s only because of the scale of their work. Three have done installations in the exhibition and one has a 10-foot map (Karey Kessler of Seattle). So because of the scale of that, those are the four artists who only have one work. Everyone else has at least two to four images. So the visitor really gets a better sense of what this artist’s vision is. If you only see one work, it’s hard to understand where the artist is coming from, what they’re trying to communicate.
Talk about the artists.
I found a lot of the artists are fairly young out of the 24. Fifteen of them have gotten their MFAs (Master of Fine Arts degree) in the 21st century. There are a couple people who got them in the ’70s, two people who got them in the ’80s and the rest in the ’90s. But then 15 starting in 2001. The last person got theirs in 2018.
There are many artists from this area. I was very pleased to be able to include artists from Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Greensboro and Winston-Salem. And also Rock Hill (S.C.), which is just over the Charlotte line.
As you were going through the entries, what was your impression of them? What did it tell you about art on paper today, the artists today?
It’s so fascinating to see the facility of these artists and the diversity of the artwork created from this one material. If you looked at the show and you didn’t realize it was all of paper, you would see such a variety that it wouldn’t occur to you at first that everything is made from the same material. But they do it all in different manners.
Are there any particular artists that you want to mention?
The one that will be most intriguing is the artist who graduated last year from UNC, Sara Farrington (from Creedmore). She has re-created this room that has a paper carpet and paper chairs and paper frames and pictures on the wall. It’s a little miniature, kind of Ikea display. ... It’s 10 feet by 10 feet.
There’s also another piece (from Alexander) made entirely of wallpaper. It’s the positive of the wallpaper, the floral motif of the wallpaper and it looks like a Persian rug.
What do the pieces range from in price?
There are several that are a couple hundred dollars, to one that goes up to $21,000. They go to thousands and ten thousands. Depending on your price range, there are some opportunities.
Why should people come to see this show?
If you are an aspiring artist, it’s good to see what other artists are doing with paper, ... If you’re interested in contemporary art, this is a great introduction because all of the artists are from throughout the United States. Many of the artists are younger, so it’s also encouraging for people who are just starting out as well. I think our students will get a lot out of seeing what these artists are doing.
Visitors seeing this will be able to understand the materiality of the work and relate to it, and hopefully be inspired to create themselves.