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Obsess Over Everything

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So a couple months ago, I strolled into LUXE Creative‘s offices to visit my friend Martin and ask for some lighting advice for an exhibit.  I walked out with my advice, plus the possibility of a project to create an immense paper flower wall for a wedding.  I had never done one before, nor had I ever made a paper flower, but I thought this would be something fun and different to do.

Now, four months later, I finally finished up!  LUXE Creative was doing work for the wedding that was planned by Shari Zatman of Perfectly Planned in Pittsburgh.  We were set to install at the Heinz History Center.  I began work immediately, and looked at a number of patterns other DIY makers had used.  I also trusted my Cricut Explore for a little help too- it’s a cutting machine but it also comes with a number of cutting inspiration patterns.  In the end, I created my own flower designs that worked for this particular wall. It is also entirely handcut, which is what sets it apart from anything else you’ll find out there.   I’ll post those later this week!   Let me just say, Martin, his team, and I put in some intense hours during install day.  There were many bumps in the road, but I was extra confident and determined to make this the most beautiful thing in the room, well besides the bride of course!

Here it is, standing at 12 ft high x 20 ft long (original designs called for it to be 16 ft high) and over 100 lbs in weight thanks to the amount of paper.  It took four months of cutting every single day, except for one week where I ended up slicing a hole through my finger (ugh).

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Martin and I looking at our paper and light work.

Martin and I looking at our paper and light work.

Putting on finishing touches

Putting on finishing touches

Once the sun was almost down, I could finally see how beautiful the wall would look

Once the sun was almost down, I could finally see how beautiful the wall would look

Attempting to rest my legs while on the Lift

Attempting to rest my legs while on the Lift

more last minute hot glue touches!

more last minute hot glue touches!

 

So that’s that!  This year has handed me two huge projects and I am so proud to say that no matter what my health threw at me (after install I wasn’t able to walk for a day because of circulatory problems in my legs), I got the job done!  I have to thank everyone who helped me along the way, because one person can never handle anything alone.  Thanks to everyone, xoxoxoxoxo

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It’s all about the details for me in papercutting.  When you’re making work like mine, that’s so repetitive and consists of mostly one, patterned image, you must get detailed in order to give your viewer some surprises.  In my latest installation, Vascular Caverns, I created my largest papercut work yet: a largescale installation that formed a cavern comprised entirely of handcut paper.  It took the longest, but was one of the shortest installations thanks to a solid month of prep!  Once it was up on the wall, I ended up cutting out more and more pieces just to give that extra touch.  So, for all you type A personalities and detail oriented creators, I have posted detail photos of the installation!  Have fun detail hunting!

 

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On April 24, after 5 months nonstop of papercutting, I opened my biggest show yet called Vascular Caverns at 707 Gallery in Downtown Pittsburgh.  The idea was one that I always had with me, so somehow I had to plan out covering a whole entire gallery in entirely handcut paper.  I knew I wanted it to be meditative, so I created a cavernous space, and included a smaller, secluded cavern within the gallery that viewers could step inside.  It was a huge success and it’s on view for some time.  If you are in the Pittsburgh area, come see it!  At the end of the exhibit’s time, I will be burning the entire installation during a performance piece- more info to come!

 

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It’s been ages since my last post.  But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on some things!  At the beginning of January, I came out to Oakland, CA so that I could start my time as an artist in residence at the Kala Institute in Berkeley!  The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council awarded me a grant that helped me to finally follow one of my passions that I sometimes forget: printmaking.

So, from January to February I will be doing a whole lot of etching (on copper plates) and maybe some screenprinting.  All my extra time will be devoted to prepping for an upcoming Solo Show at 707 Gallery in downtown Pittsburgh and exploring the Bay Area.

 

What have I made so far?  A few prints and many more tests and experiments with paper!  I’ve been printing on sheets of rice paper (not pictured) and different thicknesses and it’s going surprisingly well.  These images shown are my interpretations of my cutouts into two dimensional prints.  Next step is to incorporate papercutting!  There’s a little shop in Japantown in San Francisco that sells all kinds of rice papers and I think that’s where I’ll begin my papercutting experiments.  _DSC0318_DSC0328 _DSC0325_DSC0330 _DSC0331 _DSC0335 _DSC0337 _DSC0341 _DSC0344 _DSC0347 _DSC0348 _DSC0351 _DSC0353 Wood

 

 

 

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New piece I installed this past week into the Mine Factory for the show “I Just Want the Paper,” curated by Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi.  For this piece, I handcut rice paper and added in details with graphite.  Normally, I’m adding wax, burning paper, or adding a jumble of processes into the sculpture.  But this time it was just me, my knife, and the paper.  Relaxing.  A relief, actually.  It was as though I was challenging myself to get back to papercutting basics.

Even more of a challenge was examining the space and adapting the piece to it.  Install week was renamed papercutting week in my book since I had to make an extra 400 cutouts in 48 hours.  And this is the final product!

Things this month have been absolutely amazing and absolutely busy! I am proud to announce that I am the Grand Prize Winner of the 2014 VSA Young Emerging Artist Program with the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.! This year’s theme was “The Journey,” and prompted artists to submit their work that concerned their own personal journeys living with a disability. With this award, my piece is exhibited in the Smithsonian in Washington, it is also part of a nationally traveling exhibition, and I receive a cash prize of $20,000. I have been invited, along with the other 14 winners, to attend a Congressional Reception in January so I’m already starting to plan my outfit! I am extremely honored to be receiving this award and am so excited to see what this next year holds for me.1622843_10152345255192694_5115025851877106456_n

My winning papercut sculpture, Never Stopping, deals with my experiences as a heart transplant recipient, specifically the overwhelming feelings related to my physical issues as well as the desire for healing. The entire original sculpture is about 16 ft in height and is made entirely of handcut paper. I also added screenprinted cutouts of hands, legs, oranges, and bananas. These symbolize offerings and milagros, or physical representations of intentions. The idea behind it was for the viewer to become overwhelmed with the structure, in order to mimic my own feelings. For the Kennedy Center, I brought the piece down to a smaller scale, which you can see in the photo.me

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Never Stopping

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My transplant is a major part of my life, and I am open to any questions readers might have. I received my heart at the age of 14 months at New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. That transplant team became my family, and I am always going back every now and then to visit. They still follow up with me and my procedure results even though I have switched to the cardiology team at UPMC Children’s Hospital. Right now, I still have my original heart making my transplant one of the oldest single organ transplants in the country.

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Ok, so for a while I’ve been going pattern crazy with oranges, bananas, palm trees, and other tropical themed guys.  I’ve also gone a little nuts making tons of little milagro hands and legs.  Besides making them into little sculptures, I wanted to push them out on the world.  Most of the images that I print are heavily influenced by Miami and Cuban culture. Living in Pittsburgh, I’m in an environment that is the total opposite of my work.  One day when it was snowing I went out and pasted my little oranges onto a fence by my house in Lawrenceville.  Everything around me is so gritty, industrial, and absolutely beautiful.  I wanted to place my printed guys in the wrong kind of environment, make them seem more out of place.  I’ll be going around this week and posting more around town.

Now, I just want to say that these are not permanently installed.  I put them up with some tape, take a photo, and then take them down right after.  Don’t worry- I’m not tearing up public property with tiny oranges.  But, I would love to get these installed anywhere in the city permanently and I’m hoping that’s the next step.

Last night I had the opportunity to put some cleats I had transformed up for auction at the event Cleats for a Cure.  I was asked by my friend Duane, who owns the Roberto Clemente Museum, to grab a pair of the game worn cleats and go to town on them.  Even though I don’t watch football, I was still very excited to have William Gay‘s cleats in hand.  The charity deals with helping those with Sickle Cell Anemia, so I decided staying true to my anatomical papercutouts was a good plan.  I created 22 cutouts in honor of Gay’s number and shaped them to look like the veins in two legs.

I was also lucky to find out that a good friend of mine, Marika DeLozier, was also painting a pair of cleats.  Needless to say, we have a lovely time sipping all of the house-made wine and mingling with the Steelers.

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Lately, I’ve been obsessed with the restaurant, Smoke, here in Pittsburgh.  I first went there with my friend, Kara, and we nearly died from happiness.  I’m going to confess, I’ve been there I think three times this past month alone.  Not good but so good.

The owner of the restaurant is from Texas.  She is the greatest thing to ever happen to Mexican Food in Pittsburgh recently.  Well, that’s just my opinion.  Anyways, she cooks everything fresh in the back.  All the meats served are barbequed there which makes the whole place smell like bbq heaven.

I figured I would share my love with you.  So the tacos are great, but my two favorites are shown here.

The first is the Queso Dip.  I’m still not sure what’s in it.  For sure, there’s queso and chorizo but everything else is just magical.  It’s served with Fritos and is the perfect starter dish.

Second is the Mac and Cheese.  It’s homemade style and you can throw in any meat of your choice.  I always choose bacon.  Duh.

Went to the Fair in the Park this weekend.  Usually, I don’t find too much but just enjoy walking around.  This year, I talked to some interesting people and actually found some cool little items.

Below is a photo of the Squonk Opera.

This awesome woodblock print is done by Mr. Eddie Spaghetti.  He was nice enough to let me photograph a fresh print!  I loved this one.  He told me that it was of a girl he saw last year playing the fiddle by a tree.  The paper has whole leaves in it and is made from a Mulberry tree.

Oh, these are some photos of the big, bad Tugboat Printshop.  Their booth was amazing and made me want to buy everything.  I must say, I could actually do that since the prints were very reasonably priced.  Maybe once I buy a piece of art I’ll feel like an actual adult, right?  Anyways, check this artist out!

OH THIS IS MY FAVORITE THING EVER! AND I WANTED TO SHARE IT WITH YOU.  This is an amazing octopus belt buckle.  I went to Ron Swanberg & Family’s booth and fell in love with just about everything there.  I talked to the woman who made this buckle and she told me she carved it herself.  Then, she sends it off to be casted.  When it comes back, she grinds and sands it some more until it’s finished.  Ron sells all sorts of leather goodies like belts, bags, and bracelets for a great price.  I definitely think this was the best find of the day.

Here’s a photo of myself with an adorable little puppet.  If I had a child, or was a child, I would get this.  And love it forever.  They’re made by Nancy Gates Designs