LSU MFA candidate Leah Hamel and LSU MFA alumna Veronica Hallock won top awards in the National Collegiate Handmade Paper Art Triennial at the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design. Both awards were granted in the form of one-day residencies at prestigious art and design schools, the Southwest School of Art & Craft and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, respectively. Renowned paper artist Joan Hall was the juror of the 2016 triennial.
“The selection process is very competitive,” said Leslie Koptcho, professor of printmaking at LSU. “Being recognized in this way advances both artists’ emerging careers, as well as establishes the LSU School of Art as nurturing some of the most exciting work created in hand paper-making today.”
Hamel has two works included in the exhibition, Begin Again and Seed. Begin Again is constructed of hand-pulled paper made from recycled black jeans collected from thrift stores in Baton Rouge.
Hamel created the paper pulp from the jeans and re-formed the fibers into highly textured pieces of paper resembling roofing shingles. The paper is sewn together with embroidery thread and knotted in a way to resemble copper nails. The shingles that lay flat on the ground appear to be breaking down, decomposing.
“Through a recent experience of the failure of a structure intended to protect, I was inspired to create a piece to represent the cyclical nature of things,” Hamel said. “Through making this piece I was able to explore ideas of regeneration and corrosion in objects, landscape, and the body.”
She used hand-pulled paper made from cotton, hand-beaten kozo, and harvested banana plants to create Seed, a biomorphic form intended to express how the human body is connected to the surrounding environment. The taut, skin-like paper stretching over the organically inspired skeleton allows the viewer to make the connection between body and nature.
“When I built this piece I was thinking specifically about wombs and how the word womb can encompass more than the suggestion of a woman’s body,” Hamel said. “I think of places where something is nurtured, like home, in a broader sense, or a tiny seed pod, on a more intimate scale.”
Currently in her final year of the LSU MFA program, Hamel earned a BFA with concentrations in ceramics and sculpture and a minor in art history from the University of Alabama in Birmingham in 2012. Formerly, her artistic practice was focused primarily on sculpting with clay and found objects as a means to bring her ideas into three dimensions. Through experimentation at LSU, she discovered an interest in papermaking and has added this medium to her lexicon of making. Throughout her tenure at LSU she has remained an officer and active member in the Ceramic Arts Student Association, and she received the Michael Dougherty scholarship in recognition of her academic achievement and leadership in the arts program. Hamel is expected to graduate from LSU with an MFA in sculpture in August 2016. Her thesis exhibition, Momentary Eddies, will be on display in the Foster Gallery on LSU’s campus April 11–15, closing reception 6–8 p.m. on Friday, April 14.
Hallock’s piece, Veil, also won high marks in the Paper Art Triennial. A work from her thesis show at LSU, Veil was a response to Hallock’s “identity of home changing in a very physical way, but also in a very emotional way.” She said her thesis work was a response to the loss of many important family members, deaths that occurred at the same time during a significant geographical and cultural move. In Veil, Hallock emphasized that the paper sculpture represents the liminal border between life and death, “or the very real border of the ground in which we are buried.”
Hallock received an MFA in printmaking from LSU in 2015. She is currently teaching foundation courses at Southeastern University.
“It’s rewarding to have sponsored back-to-back successes in the National Collegiate Handmade Paper Art Triennial,” added Koptcho. “LSU students were not only recognized with awards this year, but also in 2013, when Jane Milosch of the Smithsonian Institution served as juror.”
The National Collegiate Handmade Paper Art Triennial will be on view February–June 2016 in Washington, D.C., and Cleveland, Ohio. Visit corcoran.gwu.edu/PaperArtTriennial for more information about the National Collegiate Handmade Paper Art Triennial at the Corcoran. For more information about the LSU School of Art MFA program, visit art.lsu.edu.