Papering over everything: The seventh National Juried Exhibition at the Morgan Conservatory
The rules are simple for the Morgan Conservatory’s National Juried Exhibition: Participants can submit any art object so long as 50 percent of it is made with paper.
320 artists from around the country answered the call for entries, submitting 587 projects—a record number in the seven years the Morgan has held juried shows. Ultimately, curators selected works from 54 artists to display. The featured items include prints, sculptures, photographs, books, collages, and painting. The techniques on display span from high-tech futurism to ancient peasant practices.
Eric Standley’s “Either/Or Arch 6.2” consists of 184 layers of paper painted with watercolor. The sheets have been cut with a laser into an ultra-fine recursive structure. The assemblage’s marble white color, symmetry, and rococo detail brings to mind a miniaturized Iberian mosque or Renaissance church. For “Clothed System,” Anne S. Rogers revived the obsolete art of making paper from rags. The installation’s materials began their life as linen tablecloths, which were already secondhand when she acquired them. Rogers converted the cloths into sets of clothes, which she wore continuously for 64 days of spring 2018. The clothes were then converted into blue paper, which Rogers divided into two square stacks and mounted on a hanging display piece. Northeast Ohio’s own Corrie Slawson combines methods like screen printing, marbling, and the application of gold leaf to produce colorful, energetic mixed-media compositions.
Some of the processes showcased are unique to artists who developed them. In this class, the standout is Saul Melman’s “Anthropocene” series. The series takes its name from the controversial designation of the current geological era, which some scientists have argued is defined chiefly by human activity. Theorists of the Anthropocene predict that any future civilization which reads rocks will direct their attention towards today’s mass extinctions, our billions of tons of buried garbage, and the disfiguring of the biosphere by climate change.
The last phenomenon is the one that most concerns Melman. His images begin with freshly made leaves of paper, which are lain beneath sheets of ice. The cold of the ice causes the paper to crack. Melman then applies carbon-based paint into the resulting fissures. Carbon displaces ice, just as CO2 buildup in the atmosphere warms the atmosphere, melting polar glaciers. In miniature, Melman has recreated our planetary predicament. The resulting black-and-white images are stark, haunting. As they can with the duck-rabbit figure, viewers can switch between perspectives; the sparse images can be considered both as beautiful minimalism, and as a warning of the horrific barrenness threatened by climate change.
The frightening beauty and novel methods of “Anthropocene” earned Melman Best in Show from the exhibition’s jurors, Karl Anderson of SPACES and Andrea Gyorody of the Allen Memorial Art Museum. First Runner Up went to Janet Marsano for “In The Lake of Very Bad Dreams,” for which several layers of circular paper were colored with ink and polychrome pencils. Whimsy and danger coexist in the drawing, which would not look out of place in a storybook. We see a kindly, spectacled man exploring amidst the tall grass of a wetland basin. As he moves deeper into the swamp’s interior, green patches of scales grow into alligators. When he has reached the marsh’s center, the man floats on his back, encircled by huge, hungry lizards. In a statement, Marsano said that her image represents her anxieties over her husband, who suffers from a rare, chronic neurological condition, progressive supranuclear palsy.
Anne S. Rogers (above) was one of three artists to earn Morgan Conservatory Awards for Excellence. Another went to Iris Grimm for a series of accordion books featuring illustrations of the courses of major rivers of the world. The third was granted to Thomas Norulak’s “Driftwood Beach 9,” a hand-printed zinc plate photo transfer etching. All three Excellence Award winners conspicuously reference the environment or conservation. Rogers undertook a novel use for recycled materials; Grimm draws attention waterways important to human and nonhuman life; and Norulak depicts one possible endpoint of the life of a tree.
One more prize has yet to be given: Viewer’s Choice, which will be voted on by attendees of the exhibition’s opening reception. That reception will be held tomorrow, Friday March 29, from 6 to 9 p.m. For those who cannot go to the opening (or for those who go, but want to see it again later), the exhibit will run through April 27 at 1754 E. 47th St. For more information, call 216-361-9255 or go to morganconservatory.org.