with Michael Velliquette
One look at Michael Velliquette’s paper sculptures, and you may find yourself lost in the majesty of the construction—feeling the intricate gears, fanning geometric arches, and echoing layers churning inside of you.
A circle is more than it appears in his works as it spirals into a chamber of other shapes. Each interpretation expands its form from the structural foundation to the tip of an accentual cut. As Velliquette (previously) describes: “I start out cutting small concentric shapes and layering them. That becomes the center. I then build more elaborate components that respond to the previous ones and then build out from there. I call it ‘slow-motion’ improvisation.”
Velliquette’s paper sculptures are not all about shape, though. The works’ bronze and metallic colors absorb the viewer’s attention as seen in “My soul is alight with your infinitude of stars,” As Velliquette shares, “color [a]ffects mood,” and since he arrives at the final structure of the piece methodically and organically, hue also guides the meditative experience of his work, imbuing each sculpture with its special character.
Velliquette spends 300 to 500 hours on each sculpture using mainly basic straight-edge scissors and X-Acto knives. He says:
For me, there is a difference between ‘patience’ and ‘concentration’. Patience arises when there is something unpleasant I have to endure, which is rarely the case when it comes to making my work. However, most artists I know develop good concentration skills, which is the ability to sit in a focused state for a long period of time. So, yes, my work has helped me gain an ability to concentrate, and it isn’t uncommon for me to work for six to eight hours straight on a piece without feeling too stressed or fatigued.
There is a parallel in something like paper, a material that exists somewhere between strength and fragility, and the kind of play that triggers concentration. Both are vulnerable: paper in its duality and concentration in that it massages the subconscious in its meditative state. All energy is channeled into working on the task at hand, and at the same time, especially with art, something deeper on the inside is being stretched, worked out, and unbuttoned. Where nothing (or very little) is happening, so is everything.
For example, in “The fullness of experience in the emptiness of awareness,” the eye-level view is an astounding accomplishment. Its structure evokes mythical qualities, and it tugs at the imagination. However, it’s the aerial view—the inner workings—that evoke trance and wonder, the vastness of concentration and deep observation, the reminder that bodies will breathe all on their own. When all is said and done, something beautifully intricate will come of our simple and everyday efforts.
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Myriad Layers of Intricately Cut Paper Construct Architectural Sculptures by Artist Michael Velliquette
Despite being built with a pliable, degradable material, Michael Velliquette’s paper sculptures exude strength and durability. Densley layered walls fortify the borders of his architectural works, and three-dimensional elements evoke mechanical gadgets like gears and other hardware. The incredibly intricate structures also have more delicate features, like the tiny dots and curved flourishes decorating the small pieces.
Based in Madison, Wisconsin, the artist hand-cuts each shape with straight-edge scissors or an Exacto knife, utilizing templates, mechanical punches, rulers, and compasses. Requiring between 300 and 500 hours to complete, each monochromatic sculpture begins at the center, and Velliquette expands outward. He shares with Colossal that he “aspire(s) for balance and symmetry in the overall design, but they are not perfectly symmetrical.” Acid-free PVA glue and hot adhesives hold the layers together.
Velliquette first started utilizing the accessible material as a way to model larger installations before it quickly became central to his practice. “Paper comes in endless forms. It can be used in multiple dimensions. It is easy to handle and manipulate, and it is available anywhere. It is inherently ephemeral, but given the right conditions, it can last for centuries,” he says.
The work I am now creating is non-pictorial, non-objective, and non-representational in nature. The perspective of these pieces is left intentionally ambiguous: they can be read hung on the wall like bas-relief sculptures or mounted horizontally like architectural studies. There are new issues around engineering and construction that I have had to tackle as my work has evolved in this direction. The broad aim of this investigation is to use three-dimensional structure and intricate detailing to push the boundaries of paper art literally into a new dimension.
The artist’s work will be on view at David Shelton Gallery in Houston this fall, and he is a 2021 resident at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Until then, follow Velliquette on Instagram for glimpses into his process and studio and to follow his upcoming projects. (via Dovetail)
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