Construction Paper

November 1, 2007 by  
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Artist finds new ways to express herself with simple material

While many sculptors chisel away at their soon-to-be masterpiece, Kirsten Hassenfeld works diligently cutting, folding and posting. Hassenfeld sculpts but she’s in a league of her own — her medium being paper. As odd as it may seem, she twirls, rolls, folds, coils and cuts paper into intricately designed masterpieces. Hassenfeld’s exhibition, Dans la Lune, features her biggest sculptures to date. Dans la Lune, roughly meaning a dreamlike state, consists of large, elaborate, ornament-like structures. Hassenfeld’s sculptures range from four to eight feet in diameter and embody numerous shapes and “different forms of escape,” says Hassenfeld. Her collection will remain on display until Dec. 9 at the Rice Gallery.

Born in Albany, N.Y., Hassenfeld attended the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994 and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She furthered her education and earned a Masters of Fine Arts from The University of Arizona, Tucson in 1998.

Hassenfeld’s artwork has been displayed in various exhibitions, such as: The Last Seduction — The Visceral Power of Beauty in Contemporary Art (2007), Secrist Gallery; Out of Line: Drawings from the Collection of Sherry and Joel Mallin (2006), Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University; The ArtReview 25: Emerging Artists in America (2005), Phillips, de Pury and Open House: Working in Brooklyn (2004), The Brooklyn Museum of Art. Hassenfeld works and resides in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“I steal from all cultures,” she says. She’s not a thief; Hassenfeld merely experiments with other cultures and their paper techniques. Trained in printmaking, she credits paper as still being within her comfort range.

Dans la Lune features grandiose, ornament-like structures hanging from the ceiling of the gallery. The objects vary in shapes and sizes. Each structure is comprised of various elements embedded within one another; a fairy tale maiden leading her pony is encased in a structure, while another structure masks a painting of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. Hassenfeld explains these secrets as stories “within a story getting buried.” These forgotten elements are true representations of stories or minute details often overlooked in dreams. Hassenfeld uses the color white in efforts of creating a utopian state. As the structures incorporate extensive details, each embellishment has been created with laborious effort. Look for details including pearl-like beads and tiny chains, both made from paper. In this particular exhibition, Hassenfeld says she mainly used forms of quilling/paper filigree, a European technique introduced during the Renaissance era. To further illuminate her artwork, different watt light bulbs are used in the exhibition. Hassenfeld says to have experimented with all sort of lights to highlight the various stories presented in her sculptures. The grand ornaments are linked through a series of paper chains and swags.

Inspired by the ideas of plenty and abundance, Hassenfeld credits everything from casinos and pawnshops to catalogues, ornaments and decorative pieces. “Everything has a story,” says Hassenfeld, especially the allurement of ornament. After the inspiration, she sets to work by forming and reconstructing templates on her computer. Hassenfeld spends hundreds of hours and days on her inventions creating sophisticated, abstract objects.

Hassenfield says her grandiose sculptures are not meant to focus on the indulgence of luxury goods, but instead, the memory and feelings they evoke. Hassenfeld’s hand-crafted masterpieces have outshone in the realm of sculpting, thus creating an elaborately unique but modest niche for herself. She equates her artwork as her “form of escapism,” she says. It’s a place where she can visit and revisit her fairytale-like fantasies.

“[I just] want to provide a place you could project your own daydreams into,” Hassenfeld says. And then she puts it on paper.

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