By James Chase, Artist and Art Educator
A couple of weeks ago at the Currier Museum of Art, I met an MFA student I am mentoring so we could view Deep Cuts: Contemporary Paper Cutting. Upon arrival, I sent a text to my student letting her know. Looking back, it reminded me that since we live in such a digital world, it is a treat to experience artwork in person. The Currier is a gem in Manchester because it gives us art right at our fingertips. I put my phone away and became immersed.
When I entered the museum and looked through the archway into the gallery, I was greeted with the floor-to-ceiling sight of Echo by Randal Thurston (see image, bottom-left). Right away, I was captivated. It looked like wallpaper from a distance, but as we got closer I could see intricate paper cutouts of birds and other natural elements. It seemed to be a light-hearted installation. On further inspection, however, I also saw paper firearms, which gave it a very disconcerting feeling.
I noticed this to be a recurring theme throughout the exhibit. A lot of the artwork contained unexpected elements. It made me, as a viewer, want to reexamine each piece. Another set of work that we spent a considerable time exploring was Tory Burch (Pink) and Tory Burch (Blue) by Yuken Teruya (see image above). Again, from far away I saw brightly colored shopping bags. Up close, I saw intricately formed trees cut out and formed within the bags. As a found object artist myself, I often see beauty in the discarded. I like that the artist brought her own encounters to her art because, as it explains in the Deep Cuts exhibition catalog, those cutouts represent trees in her own life.
Several favorites of mine were the initially whimsical and dream-like tunnel books by Andrea Dezsö. The books were made out of layers of stacked paper set into the gallery walls. The pieces were backlit, creating shadows and at times, an eerie atmosphere. I liked these because they were small-scale, but it felt like looking through a porthole into another world when I peered inside.
After the show, we sat down in the Winter Garden to discuss our takeaways from Deep Cuts, and there was A LOT to discuss. Oddly enough, we were sitting in the same spot I used to sit, near the steps by the fountain (though it was outside back then) after walking home from Central High. It was a full circle moment.
I’ll leave the rest of the exhibit for you to discover, but Deep Cuts is a must-see for artists, lovers of art, and those who have yet to experience the magic of the Currier Museum of Art.
James Chase is the Program Coordinator for Fine Arts, Humanities & Languages at Manchester Community College, an Adjunct Instructor of Fine Arts at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, and a board member for the Rochester Museum of Fine Arts. He’s a national and international exhibiting artist, merging painting, printmaking and photography with social engagement practices. Since 2009, he has been featured in over 50 art exhibitions. Recent exhibitions include Picked Six Contemporary Art Month in San Antonio 2015 and Memory Palace 2016 at Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, OH. Recent solo exhibitions include Echoes at the RMFA and Kill The Lights at South Plains College in Levelland, TX.
The work of artist James Chase explores ideas of collection, repetition, and memory. Discarded wooden slats and blocks are collected and repurposed to form the structural and visual elements of Chase’s work. Trained in printmaking, Chase creates traditional prints but has also developed an approach to printmaking in which older prints are cut up and reassembled to form a new composite image against the background of the found objects. For Chase, the collection of found objects is a means of mentally mapping out time and place. The layering, stacking, and painting of materials references the accumulation of memories (and the objects that represent them) and the ways in which memories can be altered, replaced, or forgotten over time. The use of bright colors and abstract geometric forms on found objects results in an image that is familiar but unrecognizable – a reflection of our ability as human beings to relate and remember as well as our inability to ever fully relive a memory or experience reality from another’s perspective.
Image credits: Yuken Teruya, Tory Burch (Pink) and Tory Burch (Blue) (detail), 2010, cuts on paper, glue, 21 x 48 x 15 ½ in., private collection, New York, image courtesy of Josée Bienvenu Gallery, © Yuken Teruya. Randal Thurston, Echo, 2017, cut paper, 120 x 240 in., courtesy of the artist, photograph by Stewart Clements, © Randal Thurston. Andrea Dezsö, Forest Stroll with Goat, 2015, tunnel book with Japanese handmade Shojoshi paper, 14 1/4 x 11 x 7 in, courtesy of the artist and Pucker Gallery, Boston, © Andrea Dezsö. Photo Portrait of James Chase by Ashlyn Mckibben.