Cutting Paper

Allyson Mellberg’s paper art

Allyson Mellberg is known for her watercolors. This medium enhances her rendering, giving form to gentle figures with washes of color. When making her paper cuts, Mellberg takes another approach. In these efforts, wash and color are gone. Simple sheets of paper are cut to shape, defining figures that suggest their stories with nuanced gestures. Unlike most artists who rely on a heightened contrast between figure/ground when making paper cuts, Melberg uses non-opaque paper giving an unusual softness to her dream-like narratives.
Describing her paper cut work, Mellberg explained the idea behind cutting paper was because she loves line and it was what attracted her to printmaking (her major in graduate school.). “Printmaking is also where I first started making stencils to block out or selectively color certain areas. I would use one collograph plate and multiple cut outs (paper and Mylar) to create images that looked like there were four or five plates. This process allowed for play and variation in my images.”

Mellberg became interested in what she could find out by trying new things and  layering in new ways. She also loved how playing with those stencils allowed her to see compositions in a different way—looking at shapes and space instead of getting caught in linear details. “Making my new paper cuts with the kitakata paper allows me to play with shapes and also with transparency and layering since the paper is translucent. I see these as a way for me to free myself from line (which I still love!) and explore my ideas and images in new ways. It is also a challenge - not to depend on line, to be able to suggest space, emotion, movement. basically, I want a challenge, I want to see my ideas in a new material or from a different vantage point.”

As in many of Mellberg’s drawing and paintings,  issues of growth, communication, interaction with nature, and the supernatural come up. She enjoys using the transparency of the paper to create "shadows" or repeated images that when they overlap create something else, something more solid. “And again, like printmaking, I love playing with reversing things so when I cut out a shape there is always the option of flipping it over or doubling it up so the same form can face itself”
Mellberg, who shows her paintings at Cinders gallery in New York and Galerie LJ in Paris, chooses to sell her paper cuts on Etsy. She explains, “When I was in college I liked to buy art and trade for art. I could only do that within a pretty modest means. So as my work has gone up in price, at every show that I do, I always try to include a few really inexpensive pieces or a cheaper artist book/ezine that could be affordable to young people. It’s happened several times that some college kid has come up to us at an opening to tell us that they just bought their first piece of art (a tiny $25 drawing or something) and that is the best thing--I always feel so honored.”

The paper cuts are also a way for her to share her work without underselling the galleries who represent her. With the paper cuts, she only offer those works directly from her shop, which don't go to the galleries. “It’s a way for me to play and experiment on my own terms. I get to communicate with a whole other community by being on Etsy, which I have really enjoyed.”
Mellberg is an Assistant Professor of Studio Art at James Madison University and lives in Charlottesville VA with her husband, artist Jeremy Taylor. Working together, they have collaborated on a series of drawings.  In addition, they have created a line of non-toxic inks that is available on Etsy under the label, “Belly of Flea Ink & Paints”.
Allyson Mellberg is part of a generation of artists exploring a hyper-personal narrative. In her paper cuts and drawings, she presents a world that is intimate and fragile. Her figures interact, ever so gently, suggesting a place where certainty is not assured. Works with a single image seems to catch a moment in time, a moment where the subject is turning inward, almost lost in contemplation. Mellberg’s ability to speak with such a subtle voice, using just a pen or a cut piece of paper, demonstrates her exceptional dexterity.
To learn more about Paper cuts, please visit / The ink & paint



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