Arts » Visual Arts

Indiana State Museum’s "Pulp" features an underappreciated medium

26 Hoosier artists show their work on various kinds of paper and explain why they use each one

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“Hajj" by Ed Funk in the Indiana State Museum show "Pulp" - SUBMITTED
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  • “Hajj" by Ed Funk in the Indiana State Museum show "Pulp"

Making paper from pulp — a process that originated in ancient China — can be an art in itself. Pulp: Works on Paper  is doing exactly that with paintings, drawings, mixed media work, prints, and photographs.

Of all the 26 works by Hoosier artists at this Indiana State Museum exhibition, no work better exemplifies paper making as art than Kathryn Haugh Clark’s “Red Perspective,” an abstract meditation on the concept of space — “from shallow to deep to infinite space,” she writes in her artist’s statement. Clark is one of the owners (along with her husband Howard) of Twinrocker Handmade Paper, based in Brookston, Ind, which has been in business since 1971.

“We acquired this piece for the [museum] collection because the making of the paper was an integral part of the creation of the artwork,” explains Mark Ruschman, Indiana State Museum’s Fine Arts Curator. “She went back on top of the original creation of the paper, and applied the other items, whether it’s the collaging of the paper or the thread, going back to work with pencil or watercolor.”

For the exhibition, Ruschman encouraged each of the artists to write statements where they respond to two questions he asked of them.

“It’s a two-fold approach,” says Ruschman. “One, it’s an art exhibition. And then it has another storyline, which has to do with works on paper. And when I was thinking about that approach, two questions came to mind for me. Why do artists work on paper? Why do they choose a specific paper to make their work? And given that all but four of these artists are still living, I took that as an opportunity to reach out to the individual artists and ask them those two questions.”

Casey Roberts’ choice of paper has everything to do with his artistic process. His painting “First There’s Birth and Then there’s Death,” is an example of his cyanotype process, in which he essentially paints with photo-sensitive chemicals. The paper has to be strong because, during the creation of each work, he winds up washing the paper numerous times. So Roberts prefers the Rives BFK printmaking paper because of its durability. But it’s not so durable that wear and tear don’t show up in the work; that’s something he considers part of the finished look in each piece.

Some of the exhibited artists are better known outside the Hoosier state. Such is the case for photographer Lucinda Devlin.

Her two color photographs in this exhibition, “Silo, Earl Park, IN” and “Electric Tower, Shelby County, IN” employ distinctly rural settings, and she uses Bartya paper for the prints, which was often used in black and white photography.

“So they’re relevant to us not only because she’s an Indiana artist but because they’re images of Indiana as well,” explains Ruschman.

For the exhibited artists who are deceased, it was left to Ruschman to write their statements. He did for Ed Funk, who was the owner of Dolphin Papers (a fine arts wholesaler) for many years. Funk, who died in 2013, was an exceptionally talented printmaker. His work on display in Pulp is entitled “Hajj,” an expressively colorful lithograph that he completed in 1988, depicting a young woman.

“I’ve known about his print forever going back many years,” explains Ruschman. “And when I had an opportunity to acquire a piece from his family as a donation after he passed away this is the piece I chose. I just think that it’s a wonderful piece. It speaks so much to his working process.”

For Ruschman, being able to write Funk’s statement was “up close and personal.” And so he found the curating of this exhibition, particularly after last year’s mammoth 200 years of Indiana Art show at the museum incorporating 150 works. In contrast to that show — which Ruschman also curated — each of the 26 works on display in this exhibition has more breathing room. Accordingly, patrons can spend a little more time, if they so desire, to explore each piece.

“I have a love of works on paper, it doesn’t matter what the technique is,” Ruschman says. “As a lot of these artists say, I love the feel of the paper, I love everything about it.”

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