This is the sixth iteration of the NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, which always revolves around a material and involves a highly collaborative process to spotlight artists who deserve greater visibility. Two dozen NMWA-affiliated committees around the world work with curators to present a shortlist of local artists who fit the theme, and NMWA’s curators make the final selections. They chose this year’s twenty-two artists to showcase a variety of technique, scale, color, and paper type.
Much of the work is sculptural, exemplifying the infinitely shapeable nature of paper. On one wall, forty-seven pairs of pale feet defy gravity, each aligned towards the ground in a surreal, collective march. Kansas-based artist Hyeyoung Shin used paper to cast these ghostly appendages, following a traditional Korean technique called Jiho gibeop; they emphasize the close qualities of paper and skin. Angela Glajcar’s work similarly commands attention with its immersive presence. The German sculptor’s suspended piece consists of enormous sheets of paper she hand-tears, then meticulously layers to resemble a craggy cave. Casting light within and around it, the minimal portal recasts its surroundings.
Often, paper is so disguised by the artist’s hand that it is nearly unidentifiable. Echiko Ohira’s sculptures, which can resemble organic forms, from a monumental mushroom cap to a bird’s nest, can appear at a glance to be carved from wood, so precise and structured are their contours. But the artist works with thin paper that she stains with tea, then twists, tears, stacks, and sews into her final, fluid shapes.
The Arizona-based Annie Lopez, whose works explore personal history and memory, relies on her own highly involved process. Lopez sews dresses that appear fashioned from fabric but are in fact constructed out of parchment-like tamale wrappers. They are also photographs: specifically, cyanotypes, with each blue print capturing images and texts from paper mementos, such as old advertisements and restaurant menus. Lopez has been printing on tamale paper for a decade, ever since she chanced upon the sheets in a grocery store. “The paper spoke to me,” she said. “I’m of Mexican descent, and my family used to make tamales, so it connected to my culture—it made the work a bit more ‘me.’”