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Julie VonDerVellen's Paper Meditations at Alfons Gallery

Jan. 31, 2017
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Most homes have innumerable papers lying around: Scribbled notes, newspapers and receipts that document the commerce of daily life. The pages of books are hidden away, tucked behind their covers. All of these papers carry documentation and ideas, and artist Julie VonDerVellen takes this plentiful material to make sculptural art that embodies time and attentiveness.

Weaving is central to VonDerVellen’s work. Paper from various sources is cut into thin strips and then woven together, forming something that recalls textiles. However, this technique is also used to create solid objects like clocks and watches. Companion pieces Spring Ahead and Fall Back are two cuckoo clocks. You can decide which is more charming—the spring version neatly crafted out of monochrome tones of white, or the autumn clock where the yellow cuckoo is adorably shaggy in its paper form. Regardless, they represent the keen detail and craft of VonDerVellen’s work.

In her artist’s statement, she says, “The design process is a temporal escape—an environment where solitude is welcomed and quietness presents itself as aesthetic softness.” This sense of investing in a meditative process to make her art is readily apparent. The intricacy of hundreds of woven strands speaks to a commitment of time and presence. Sometimes that temporary quality is especially overt, as in the aforementioned clocks. It also appears more abstractly, like in the grouping called Epilogue. Round shapes of varied sizes are reminiscent of sundials or even cross-sections of trees with their spiraling forms. The surfaces are decorated with collages of letters and words, like well-guarded secrets.

Tranquility lends itself especially to VanDerVellen’s abstract woven pieces. They float against the gallery walls or are suspended behind glass and frames. They take forms derived from rectangles and square, still using her characteristic weaving technique. Discreet watercolor tones and variations with collaged paper forms are used in some, like Fringe, where pale pink paper is used to create floral forms that are bound to the composition with pale pieces of thread. VonDerVellen’s work exemplifies the solitude and softness she describes, but are physically engaging for their understated design.

“En Route: Julie VonDerVellen” continues through March 19 at Alfons Gallery, 1501 S. Layton Blvd., inside the St. Joseph Center. 

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