THE CLOUD SCULPTOR

 

Paper is one of those mediums that most of us take for granted. Its delightful elegance and wondrous fragility is overshadowed by its now almost defunct role in society – a vehicle for bad hand-writing, terrible scribbles of male genitalia and vague shopping lists. The fact that it was once a tree – growing organically in the soil of our earth (before being an A4 stack of reflex printing paper) is something that I have to constantly remind myself – and it bewilders my easily-excited mind every time.

There are so many things to love about its thin, lightweight, delicateness…but it is often associated with being flimsy, fragile and always vulnerable to tearing or ripping. It holds grudges and is entirely unforgiving after being folded, with crease lines remaining as evidence in its otherwise flat skin. It has a smell – it has a sound – and in my primary school days I did eat the corners of my notebooks and yes, I can still remember the soggy taste.

Mia Pearlman is one artist who sees the beauty in this often overlooked medium. Known as the ‘weather girl’ or the ‘cloud sculptor,’ she mimics ‘nature’s emotion via meticulously crafted paper installations’ - Home Contents Magazine. Each project is site specific; Sculptural and often glowing with natural or artificial light. Imaginary weather systems appear frozen in an ambiguous moment, bursting through walls and windows, or hovering within a room.” We had a chat to her about her creations, her dreams and her eternal love for paper.

 

Words: Beck Rocchi

miapearlman.com

 

EYE 2008 - Site specific installation at the Centre for Recent Drawing, London

 

 

LEFT : EDDY 2008 - Site specific installation at Sears Peyton Gallery, NY RIGHT : INRUSH 2009 Site specific installation at the Museum of Arts and Design, NY Photos: Jason Mandella

 

Your sculptures are very intuitive, based on spontaneous decisions in the moment…

“I begin by making loose line drawings in India ink on large rolls of paper. Then I cut out selected areas between the lines to make a new drawing in positive and negative space on the reverse. 30-80 of these cut paper pieces form the final installation, which I create on site by trial and error, a 2-3 day dance with chance and control. Existing only for the length of an exhibition, this weightless world totters on the brink of being and not being, continually in flux. It is my mediation on creation, destruction, and the transient nature of reality.”

“I make large scale installations because I believe that we are all deeply influenced by our surroundings and by the relative scale of art to the dimensions of the human body. My work is about invisible forces much bigger than us that we can’t control, from weather to terrorism to the stock market to death. To give people a visceral sense of our smallness in the universe, the work has to be big. While these ideas can be overwhelming and let’s face it, depressing, there is a freedom to acknowledging them, or trying to remain in conversation with the fact that we are just a microscopic blip on the timeline of the universe. We still have to live our lives in this present moment.” Miapearlman.com

 

EDDY 2008 Site specific installation at Sears Peyton Gallery, NY Photos: Jason Mandella

 

 

LEFT: MAELSTROM 2008 Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY. Photos: Jason Mandella RIGHT : GYRE 2008 Site specific installation at the Islip Art Museum, Long Island, NY Photos: Gene Bahng

 

 

PENUMBRA 2010 Site specific installation at Plaatsmaken, Arnhem, the Netherlands

 

 

What are your earliest memories? Do they give any insight into the direction your art has taken?

“One thing I do remember doing constantly as a small child is intently studying every wallpaper and textile pattern, color, object, etc in the house. I grew up in a large, sunny, houseplant and antique-filled apartment, stuffed with unusual furniture, walls and walls of bookshelves, my Mom’s homemade patchwork quilts, collections of Depression glass and blue and white china, and curiosities like porcupine quills in glass jars, hand painted Eastern European Easter eggs, heavily carved German chairs with lion heads for feet, Moroccan tables inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and various busts and abstract sculptures created by my grandmother, who became an artist late in life. To this day, I remember the pastoral Dutch scenes on our Chinese salad plates and the floral embroidery on every tablecloth. Each one of these patterns was a miniature world I could visit throughout the day.

In 1980 my Dad went to China for 8 weeks and brought me home a small folder of extraordinarily intricate, black paper cut outs of pandas in pagodas and other traditional scenes. I studied those things endlessly! I was only about 5 or 6 years old but I remember carefully lifting them up by the corners with great care, they were so impossibly fragile. Recently I found these cut outs in a pile of old papers and it was like a lightening bolt—I’d completely forgotten this early influence of paper cut outs and Asian art, two things that continue to inspire me.

Being surrounded by so many visual stimuli taught me that creating beauty and visual interest through one’s taste and ability to combine objects is both important and necessary. I was always encouraged to find my own artistic vision and experiment with every kind of art supply, even if it meant glitter in the couch cushions or paint on the floor. Suffice it to say, I had very strong feelings about anything visual, and still do!”

 

PENUMBRA 2010 Site specific installation at Plaatsmaken, Arnhem, the Netherlands Photos: Mia Pearlman

 

 

PENUMBRA 2010 Site specific installation at Plaatsmaken, Arnhem, the Netherlands Photos: Mia Pearlman

 

What is it about the earth, our skies, the clouds and natural phenomenon which you draw your inspiration from?

“I’m endlessly fascinated by the repeating patterns in nature. My work is about forms constantly in flux, just like life. Even a prehistoric rock is still changing—just too slow for us to see. Nature is so much cooler than art. I can never win!”

 

GYRE 2008 Site specific installation at the Islip Art Museum, Long Island, NY Photos: Gene Bahng

 

The process of cutting your installation is incredibly labour intensive, where did you inherit your patience?

Both of my parents (who have been divorced since I was 4 1/2) are extremely determined people who never let anyone or anything stand between them and a goal. I definitely inherited their drive, tenacity and focus. I don’t mind doing something that seems totally insane and boring, if it helps me realize my vision. It may seem bizarre to sit alone in a room cutting paper all day, but to me it’s way more bizarre to wear pantyhose to an office and sit in a cubicle all day putting numbers in spreadsheets. I couldn’t be an accountant if my life depended on it, as I’m almost unable to do even basic math, and probably most accountants would not want to be artists. Thank god we are all different!”

 

INRUSH 2009 Site specific installation at the Museum of Arts and Design, NY Photos: Jason Mandella

 

 

EYE 2008 Site specific installation at the Centre for Recent Drawing, London Photos: Mia Pearlman

 

I can imagine encountering your work is an engaging, sensory and spacial experience. What are you trying to convey by creating art on such a giant scale?

“Because my work is about forces much larger than us, out of our control, the work has to create a sense of physical overwhelm. There is a huge difference between looking at a miniature and standing in the middle of a room-sized installation: the relationship between the scale our bodies and the art is part of the experience of looking, and therefore of the meaning of the work—which is really created by the viewer, not the artist. The scale of the work is intrinsic to the subject matter.”

 

MAELSTROM 2008 Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY Photos: Jason Mandella

 

 

What is the strangest dream you can remember having?

“I have A LOT of strange dreams. I have had a recurring dream forever in which I am lost in New York, and even though in reality I know every inch of the city, in the dream I can’t find where I want to go. It often takes place in the subway, where I’m searching for the C train platform, etc. Clearly my subconscious isn’t terribly complex! Happily I can report that when things really started to take off in my work I found where I was going in the dream too. I won’t go into detail, but the destination was totally worth the search! Now let’s just hope it comes true. . .” Question from refractionart.com

 

 

EDDY 2008 Site specific installation at Sears Peyton Gallery, NY Photos: Jason Mandella

 

 

How large do you think you could go… What is your dream space to install these ephemeral wonders in?

“I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have a gallery or museum exhibition where I could show different bodies of work together. I’d create a giant cut paper installation that really fills a large space, alongside a room containing my glass sculpture, another with drawings, etc. I’ve also been dying to realize an idea for a sound installation for many years that would be a centerpiece of this imaginary show. MoMA, are you listening??? ”

 

 

 

Tags: , artist, artists, cut, delightful, fragile, paper

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