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Visual arts

Howard County student papers make the cut

By Mike Giuliano

11:13 AM EDT, March 23, 2012

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A lowly piece of paper can be transformed into ever so much more than that, as the young artists demonstrate in "Papercraft: Design and Art with Paper." This exhibit at the Howard County Arts Council features Howard County Public School students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Paper is a perfect medium for creative projects in the classroom, because it's cheap and versatile. It's obviously just waiting for some budding Rembrandt to draw or paint on it; and it's also easily cut, bent or somehow manipulated.

The resulting artwork gives the students a valuable outlet in terms of self-expression, so it's only natural that some of them turn to portraits of themselves and others. Elizabeth Gallagher, of Oakland Mills High, has a "Self Portrait" comprised of numerous black-and-white photographs that have been cut up into tiny pieces and then rearranged into a collage. A more or less representational image is formed by those many pieces.

Relying upon ripped and torn pieces of paper for the collage titled "Thumbs Up," Evan Folsom, of Glenelg High, is especially good at bringing out the varied flesh tones in the face of this portrait subject.

If some of these artists cut up the paper into small pieces and then use them as material for collages, other artists cut into flat pieces of paper and come up with interesting designs. Chloe Berman, of Atholton High, has a "Wrought Iron Design" that consists of a stalk-and-petals organic design that's achieved by carefully planning every cut into the paper.

Besides cutting into paper, many of these artists also proceed to bend, fold, spindle and otherwise mutilate it. Juliana Benitez ,of Bollman Bridge Elementary, has a wall-hanging, mini-sculpture titled "Bicycle" that is made out of cut and rolled newspaper. She has painted the wheels red, and also painted silver spokes on them. Talk about peddling newspapers!

Vanessa Barker, of Folly Quarter Middle, uses cardboard to make her modestly scaled sculptural assemblage titled "Elephant." The rough-textured and segmented quality of cardboard makes it suitable for theelephant'sears, trunk and tusks. Simply by joining together several cut-and-shaped pieces of cardboard, she's able to give a palpable sense of that imposing beast.

The shaping of the paper is a more delicate operation for Alicia Veliz, of Mayfield Woods Middle. She uses many thin pieces of white paper for "Big Wigs," encouraging them to boisterously curl outward in all directions.

The cut paper remains much flatter for the yellow strands representing the feathers adorning a green-faced, orange-beaked creature in "Bird Mask." The student who made this mask, Abby Andrews, of Rockburn Elementary, may well have been thinking about a certain large bird that stars on the TV program "Sesame Street."

Among those boldly venturing into three-dimensional creations is Avey Yang, of Centennial High, whose "Asian Land" is akin to a pop-up book in the way that a cut-paper temple pops up from an otherwise flat landscape. The paint that has been sensitively applied to this Asian landscape further enhances the illusion that we're immersed in that environment.

There are quite a few other artists in the show who push their artwork out into the gallery space. Some cut into and reshape books, others paint on paper bags and yet others make architectural or figurative constructions.

If much of this three-dimensional artwork is strictly meant for gallery installation, some pieces are meant to be worn. Lauren Wagner, of Marriotts Ridge High, has a papier mache mask titled "The Tragic Fool" that would be neat to wear at a costume party. Indeed, an accompanying photograph shows this mask being worn by somebody.

Jena Rutten, of Reservoir High, has a "Magazine Outfit" created out of collaged fashion magazine pages that now have been fashioned into a dress that's displayed on a mannequin in the gallery. The accompanying magazine page-covered boots also are made for walking. If a student wore this cool outfit to the prom, it would be front-page news in the school, er, paper.

"Papercraft: Design and Art with Paper" runs through April 20 in Gallery I at the Howard County Arts Council, 8510 High Ridge Road, in Ellicott City. Running concurrently in Gallery II is "No Boundaries," an exhibit by artists with developmental disabilities; this exhibit is in partnership with Howard County Recreation and Parks Department of Therapeutic Recreation and Inclusion Services. Call 410-313-2787 or go to http://www.hocoarts.org.