So much of our art appreciation focuses on what's created on or with a particular medium. But what interests paper-cutting artist Maude White is the medium itself. Her fantastical designs, featuring recurring motifs including water, hair, birds, and elephants, embrace paper as both the medium and the art.
What's most striking about Maude's designs is her use of positive and negative space. From her website: "When I was a child I thought a great deal about hidden spaces. The intimacy, the hushed secrecy – I was always looking underneath objects, or through them. I have always believed that if you look hard enough, you will see something precious and new, or, perhaps, something incredibly ancient and sacred. When I cut paper, I feel as if I am peeling back the outer, superficial layer of our vision to reveal the secret space beneath." And while the results of her exacting cuts are extraordinary, it's only upon closer examination that the complexity and the artistic vision required to execute become apparent. As Maude notes, there is no erasing or painting over or covering up a mistake in her art. Every slice of the blade needs to be precise, intentional, and done with great care and confidence. Paper-cutting is not for the faint of heart.
But why paper? To Maude, paper is strength. Paper is constancy. Paper is history. And, perhaps most importantly, paper is the great communicator. "Paper is everywhere and it has been telling stories for centuries. By respecting and honoring paper for what it is, and not considering it a stepping-stone to something greater, I feel like I am communicating some of the pleasure it brings to me, " she writes. "I am not creating for Art’s sake. I am creating for Paper’s sake, to make visible the stories that every piece of paper attempts to communicate to us."
Maude's intense respect for and appreciation of paper is evident in her work, at once fraught with fragility and bold in message. Perhaps it's that duality that makes her work feel so personal, like looking into a mirror - that instant recognition of our own capacity to be both powerful and vulnerable all at once.
All images via Maude White