Dawn Wohlford Exhibit
May 3 – June 28, 2018
Sculptural paper artist Dawn Wohlford learned how to make paper at a workshop in New York City during the National Art Educator’s conference in 1983. Afterwards, she went back to Northeast Missouri State University and read everything she could find about the craft, experimenting as much as possible with improvised equipment. Then, with Bachelors degree in hand, she headed west to learn from the “man who wrote the book.” Upon arrival at Arizona State University, she discovered that Jules Heller (Papermaking) was on sabbatical that semester, so she would have to trust John Risseeuw to impart this wisdom. It turned out that Risseeuw was also a nationally known papermaker and he taught everything from the history of papermaking to how to make a perfect sheet of paper and so much more. After an intensive (and wet) semester in the paper lab, Dawn headed to Colorado where she became an apprentice to internationally known papermaker, Raymond Tomasso. There, she assisted in the production of paper for another famous artist, R.C. Gorman, and produced 150 sheets of nearly identical denim papers for a limited edition book, Strange Papers, that was assembled and bound in Germany. Once she had established residency in Colorado, she entered the graduate program at the University of Colorado in Boulder where she obtained an MFA in sculpture in 1988. In 1998, she moved back to her hometown in Iowa. She is currently the Visual Arts Director for Quad City Arts, Rock Island, Illinois where she oversees two art galleries and a public sculpture program. Additionally, she serves on the Acquisitions Committee for the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, teaches workshops on papermaking, and creates sculptural pieces using handmade paper and found or recycled materials.
I could be the Poster Child for the slogan “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.” Handmade paper is the basis for the majority of my artwork, but I often incorporate, weave or build using other found materials. I use old clothes, dead plants, shredded money, and items such as used up doormats (made of natural fibers) to make paper pulp. I cast or incorporate pieces of rusty metal, vintage glass, bicycle inner tubes, leather and anything else that catches my eye. Pieces are often finished with pigment to achieve the appearance of metal.
My approach to art making is methodical. Each piece is carefully planned and goes through several time intensive processes before reaching its final state. Each stage informs and alters the finished piece. The finished piece aspires to be both a beautiful object and a thought provoking or humorous reflection.
Most recently, the plight of bees, as well as the construction of their hives (which is a form of papermaking) has captured my interest. Recent pieces reflect thoughts about the structure of beehives and how they are similar to human homes as not only a supposedly safe haven, but a place to work and create.