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Life is a Curve

Summer 2019
Summer 2019
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Frida Baranek is a sculptor and paper/printmaking artist currently based in Miami, Florida. She was born in Rio de Janeiro and has lived in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Paris, Berlin, New York, and London. Her training as an architect and industrial designer led to her desire to subvert materials, revealing the fascination they exert in her imagination. Baranek's work is in many collections including the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC; the Ministere de La Culture and the Fonds National d'Art Contemporain, both in France; The Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro, and of São Paulo; the Blanton Museum in Texas; and the Frost Art Museum in Miami. <p class="bio">  Based in Jamestown, Rhode Island, Joan Hall works in mixed media and large-scale sculptural installations with an emphasis on the materials of paper, glass, and metal. Hall received her BFA at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio and her MFA at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She studied papermaking with Garner Tullis at the Institute of Experimental Printmaking in San Francisco. She is known for her innovative approaches to material and process. Hall's work has been exhibited and is in collections both nationally and internationally. The following essay accompanies Hand Papermaking's limited-edition portfolio titled Intergenerationality, published to coincide with the organization's thirtieth anniversary in 2016. The author was also the curator of the portfolio, brilliantly pairing artists from two generations—those who started their career about the time Hand Papermaking was founded, and those who were born around that same time. Given the portfolio's collaborative theme, we have included Ginsberg's insightful essay and images of all the portfolio works in this Collaboration issue of the magazine.—Ed. As Hand Papermaking celebrates its thirtieth year in 2016, it is only natural to look back to its founding and forward to its future. A lot happened in the world in 1986, such that the launch of a magazine dedicated to handmade paper went largely unnoticed. Personal computers were on the rise, and that year the first computer virus began to spread. The space shuttle Challenger exploded during takeoff, and the Chernobyl nuclear accident affected many lives for years to come. That year Cary Grant died and Lindsay Lohan was born. The future looked a bit bleak. Personally I remember being very excited about Halley's Comet returning, only to be disappointed when it showed up rather dimly in the night sky. Little did I know that a field was taking shape that would become my universe, as it is perhaps for many of you reading these words.

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frida baranek (fb): We met each other in 1992 when I traveled from my home country of Brazil to St. Louis, as part of a fellowship I received from the Mid-America Arts Alliance. You invited me to visit Washington University and Laumier Sculpture Park. The following year, we coinci-dently found ourselves together with studios at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. That's where our friendship solidified. In 1994, you invited me to return to St. Louis to make an edition of prints at Island Press, Washington University's professional printmaking studio where you were a professor and master papermaker. We decided to emphasize handmade paper.  This was the first of several times that I went back to print at Island Press. It was such a good experience for both of us and for the students who worked as assistants on the projects, that subsequently you invited me to work in your own studio, and we would hire students as assistants. The experience at Island Press was fundamental to all the work on paper I have developed since. Having had worked only on big sculptures and installations, the possibility to create something in a completely different material, on a different scale, opened up a new dimension for me and my work. joan hall (jh): When I first saw your work, I was immediately taken by the airiness of your steel sculptures. I thought it would translate well into handmade paper and collagraph. You had almost no experience in papermaking or printmaking when we met. At that time I was working mainly with mixed media, handmade paper, and printmaking, creating relief free-form pieces meant for the wall. I remember that there was an immediate curiosity between the two of us about our processes. We established, from the beginning, a respect for who we were as artists and began to share what we knew with no sense of competition. This turned into a now 26-year-long collaboration in my studio. You are the only artist with whom I have such a re-lationship. Friendship, emotional sharing, and a mutual curiosity about material exploration have resulted in a unique experience for both of us.  fb: Every time I arrive at your studio, I come with a time restriction and a strong will to make an edition of works. The process of making an edition becomes almost like a performance. The challenge for you is to problem solve as fast as possible. I always come with some kind of an emotional charge that gets translated into my abstract works. I usually bring odd materials with which to make printing plates or something to imbed in the paper.  jh: There are no rules in my studio—a way of thinking which comes naturally to you too. I always wonder:  "What is Frida go-ing to show up with next?" Often we go directly from the airport to my favorite metal warehouse and comb through the scrap. It often dictates how the plates are made. We have an easy banter between us in the studio; and in some ways, we are inside each other's head. fb: That's true. For example, one time you were in my studio in Miami and saw some beautiful bits of ceramic I had left over from a project. You scooped them up and said you would be holding them hostage until I go to your new studio in Rhode Island. The result was Razor's Edge (2018), a combination of the porcelain pieces and paper. jh: I didn't even ask; I just packed them up and put them in my suitcase. I had recently done a project in the Gulf of Mexico using a mobile studio in a camper. I had developed a process to imbed ocean detritus in a combination of flax, abaca, and gampi without being in my usual studio. I experimented on how heavy an object could be supported by the paper. I knew it was the perfect process for your ceramics.  We are the "odd couple" in many ways because you use materials in a very minimal way while I pile up the lay-ers of materials and transparencies. A perfect example is a piece I did called Dead Zone (2012–2019) that I created from the Gulf Project.  We have distinctly different ways we approach materials and process and yet we influence each other. fb: Recently we were invited to collaborate on a handmade paper piece together at Dieu Donné in New York. After lengthy discus-sions we came to the conclusion that we were more interested in the idea of working side by side with the same materials and exploring new possibilities using a hydraulic press.  It was a dif-ferent and very pleasant experience working with Dieu Donné master collaborator Tatiana Ginsberg. jh:  I had only worked on a hydraulic press once in the 1980s and you had never used one. We wanted to develop our individual works in the company of each other. It was a different experience not being the master papermaker, and working with Dieu Donné master collaborator Amy Jacobs was wonderful.  I learned some new techniques that I have brought back to use in my studio. fb: You taught me to see three-dimensionally while working in two dimensions. I will be always grateful. The "surprises," like the unintentional marks on the Sintra plates from pressing un-conventional materials through the press, showed that to me. It is a natural instinct for me to create relationships between materi-als, not so much to work on a flat surface. Paper pulp is an amaz-ing base, and the marks bring an extra dimension to it.  jh: When I met you, my paper/print works were layered as reliefs on the wall. I still prefer to work on the wall, although through our friendship I occasionally make sculptural pieces meant for the floor. I have yet to do a free-standing piece; not sure I ever will. I was combining paper, metal, and glass before I met you, and because of our relationship, I have pushed how I use those materials. My use of line now is not only textural but dimension-al, and I see myself as a sculptor after so many years of making art with paper on the wall. We have mutually benefited from our over-quarter-of-a-century-long collaboration that was founded on an immediate liking of each other.  fb: Our collaboration is founded on mutual respect, professional give and take, and humility. As people, we have built a solid friend-ship and I look forward to future collaborations in the studio.