Seattle to New York: The Skinny on Paper

It's agreed that skin and paper are quite different from a functional stand-point; skins holds in our blood and paper-cuts draw out that blood - but they share an intersection of formal qualities that allow the pair to stand in for each other as visual metaphors.

Carolee Schneeman, Body Collage, 1967
Dan Webb, Skin, 2009
On a recent trip to New York I noticed some eerie similarities to the ways Seattle and New York artists use paper and skin interchangeably. First pair: Carolee Schneeman's video piece Body Collage (currently at the Whitney) and Dan Webb's suit of armor Skin made from raw-hide (recently at Ambach and Rice). Both pieces chat about what it means to cover ourselves: is it a sign of weakness or power or a new-kind-of-Halloween? Schneeman video tapes herself brushing an adhesive onto her bare body and then rolling, frolicking and gallevanting in paper which collects on her body – then she pulls it off and does it again... and again... and again. Compare that to Dan Webb's stoic, unmoving suit of armor on a pedestal or better yet compare it to this suit of armor at the Met.

Suit of Armor, Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
In format both paper and skin are two-dimensional media. The two-dimensional quality of a soft layer lends itself to pliability and can be formed into third dimension(s). I think that this pliability connotes a vulnerability (because you manipulate it) but not necessarily so. In Dan Webb's suit this pliability results in vulnerability but with a hard-ass-metal-suit-of-armor at the Met... no it doesn't. The metal suit is utilitarian while Dan's piece is absurd; rawhide is not a realistic stand in for steel and to cover one's skin with skin is redundant.

Nils Ivar Theorin, Trophy Collection, 2009
Enter the Trophy Collection, a series of paper-masks by Nils Ivar Theorin featured in the “Prime-time” October show at the School of Visual Art's gallery. Formed over food, drink and detergent bottles, the shadows that are created by the handles and volumes of the bottles create faces – reminiscent of masks I have seen at the Seattle Art Museum's current exhibition (name?).



African Masks, Collection of the Seattle Art Museum
Yes that is a keg on top of his head. After seeing Trophy Collection and the SAM's exhibit, I realized my latest work was not so unique - here's a paper-mache wine bottle I've been working on.
Lucas Deon Spivey, 2009

I'll be posting a-whole-nother post specifically on paper as a counter-productive camoflauge (skin) for alcohol. Stay tuned.