Contemporary artist Calvin Nicholls has worked for 25 years to perfect his medium of choice…Paper! But he doesn't just draw on it. He shapes it to create intricate works of staggering detail and beauty.
To make his art, Nicholls starts by observing real-life animals and their movements. He makes numerous sketches that he will later use as reference for his paper art. He then cuts up thousands of tiny pieces of paper and pastes them together to form each animal.
The texture he is able to achieve with this technique is astounding. Given that he's only working with white paper, the details must be exactly correct, in order to achieve the appropriate depth and shadowing to under a work believable. It's incredibly delicate work.
Nicholls’ work has been featured in National Geographic, as well as in numerous galleries and art shows all over the world.
He uses X-ACTO knives, scalpels, and scissors in the construction of his critters. Fur is an especially difficult texture to create, and feathers are also quite difficult to replicate. So, animals provide a distinct challenge for this amazing artist.
“I have been a full time paper sculpture artist since the mid 1980's during which time I have created pieces for advertising campaigns, private collectors, institutions, book publishers, corporate gift companies and galleries. I enjoy white on white due to the emphasis which is placed on texture and form. One of my most extensive collections includes over 75 pieces for Follett Library Resources in McHenry Illinois. My training was in graphic design at Sheridan College in Oakville Ontario and after several years of running my own freelance design studio I made the gradual transition to paper sculpture.”
The works featured here are from a series appropriately titled “Paper Zoo”. To learn more about Calvin Nicholls and to see additional works—visit his website and/or his Facebook page.
African-American born sculptor and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012) is best known for the sculptures and prints she produced during the 1960s and 1970s—which are seen as politically charged. Her works often focus on the female experience.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Catlett graduated from Howard University in 1935. She later received a master’s degree from the State University of Iowa. During the 1940s, Catlett taught art at a number of schools and began to exhibit with other African American artists who would go on to equally illustrative careers, including Robert Blackburn, Jacob Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith, Norman Lewis, Archibald Motley, and Charles White. She became the “promotion director” for the George Washington Carver School in Harlem. In 1946, she received a Rosenwald Fun Fellowship that allowed her to travel to Mexico, where she studied wood carving and ceramic sculpture at the Escuela de Pintura y Esculture, in Esmeralda. She later moved to Mexico, married, and became a Mexican citizen.
Her work is a mixture of the abstract and the figurative, in the Modernist tradition, with clear influences from African and Mexican artistic traditions, as well. According to the Catlett, the main purpose of her work is to convey social messages rather than pure aesthetics. While not very well known to the general public, her work is heavily studied by art students looking to depict race, gender and class issues.
Woman Fixing Her Hair is a late sculpture that embodies the characteristics of her best work. Its subject, a nude woman caught in the act of her daily toiletry, is familiar and empathetic. Melding human form and furniture into a seamless whole, the artist navigates a line between abstraction and realism, cubism and biomorphism. Her exquisite handling of natural material-the smoothly polished mahogany and luminous opals-conveys the beauty that she sees in her subject matter.” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)
The Art Institute of Chicago holds Edward Hopper’s famous painting, “Nighthawks”. Hopper allegedly based the painting on a diner that was located in New York City’s Greenwich Village, in an area where Greenwich Street meets 11th Street and 7th Avenue (Mulry Square). But he actually based the painting on an all-night coffee stand. “I simplified the scene a great deal and made the restaurant bigger,” he said. “Unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city.”
In 1897, Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt’s (1862-1918) mature style emerged, and he founded the Vienna Sezession, a group of painters who revolted against academic art in favor of a highly decorative style similar to Art Nouveau.
Klimt rarely traveled, but trips in 1903 to Venice and Ravenna, both famous for their beautiful mosaics, most likely inspired his gold technique The early Byzantine mosaics of San Vitale clearly made a lasting impression on him, and their influence is reflected in the development of his “golden style.” It was at this time that he began his so-called “Golden-Phase.” The “golden style” is noteworthy for the use of gold and sometimes silver leaf. There is a sense of horror vacui as almost all surfaces are ornately covered, frequently with geometric or floral elements. The figure takes on the quality of an icon and often appears to inhabit multiple environments. One of the most superb examples of Klimt’s “golden style” is his 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer 1 and The Kiss (1907-8). Klimt's 'Golden Phase' was marked by positive critical reaction and success.
The Kiss was painted at the highpoint of Klimt’s “Golden Phase”, during which period he painted a number of works in a similar gilded style. This work is a perfect square. The canvas depicts a couple embracing, their bodies entwined in elaborate robes decorated in a style influenced by both linear constructs of the contemporary Art Nouveau style, the organic forms of the earlier Arts and Crafts movement, and the influence of mosaics and medieval art. The work is composed of conventional oil paint with applied layers of gold leaf, an aspect that gives it its strikingly modern, yet evocative appearance. The Kiss is widely regarded as a masterpiece of the early modern period. It is a symbol of Vienna Jugendstil--Viennese Art Nouveau--and is considered Klimt's most popular work.
It is perhaps ironic that many Modern artists—in their determination to create something “new”—often returned to the art of the medieval world for inspiration. Their struggle was to break free from standards established during the Italian Renaissance, which had been in place for over four-hundred years. It is not at all uncommon to find many of the characteristics deeply embedded in the artistic traditions of the Byzantine Empire and Middle Ages reapplied and reinvented in Modern Art. “What Goes Around Comes Around”