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Making Paper Mean Something

John Risseeuw
September 28, 2013
7:00pm
Scripps College Humanities Auditorium

For over four decades, John Risseeuw’s art has often touched on political and social themes. Hand papermaking provided not just a suitable handmade substrate for printing of the desired color, thickness, size, and shape, but also an avenue for content. The Bill of Rights printed on paper made from cotton American flags and blue jeans, for instance, is a piece with total conceptual unity. Other work with appropriate plant fibers, money, or shredded documents in the pulp invites the viewer/reader to consider a more layered presentation of visual and intellectual ideas. This presentation will look at how one artist came to produce such work and will describe The Paper Landmine Print Project, prints and a limited edition book about landmines, victims, and the detritus of war executed on paper made from the clothing of victims, plant fibers from the minefields, and the shredded currency of nations that make the landmines.

Biography

Born in Wisconsin, John Risseeuw received his BS, MA, and MFA degrees in printmaking from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1968, 1972, and 1973, respectively. He is Professor of Art at Arizona State University where he has taught printmaking, book arts, and paper making since 1980. He directs the Pyracantha Press, founded in 1982 as the book art imprint of ASU; his own Cabbagehead Press was founded in 1972. His prints, books, and collaborative works, many on handmade paper, have been exhibited and collected widely. The Library of Congress has purchased all of his works on paper and books.

Publications referencing his work include Elspeth Lamb’s Papermaking for Printmakers; Sarah Bodman’s Creating Artist’s Books and A Manifesto for the Book; Betty Bright’s No Longer Innocent; The Complete Printmaker, by Ross, Romano, and Ross; and Thelma Newman’s Innovative Printmaking, as well as articles in Hand Papermaking, Fine Print, and Contemporary Impressions. His work has been included in three of Hand Papermaking’s biennial portfolios and he wrote the introductory essay for a fourth. He was founding president of the College Book Art Association and has served on the Board of Directors of Hand Papermaking Magazine.

Over four decades, his art has often touched on political and social themes, including political corruption, equal rights, environmental abuse, fascism, illegal wars, arms proliferation, and sheer idiocy. Some prints are prompted by more current political fears, observations, and anger, but all are executed in a journalistic sense: the artist as witness. Recent prints and a limited edition book about landmines, victims, and detritus of war were executed on paper made from the clothing of victims, plant fibers from the minefields, and the shredded currency of nations that make the landmines. That project has generated over $20,000 in fundraising for agencies that assist mine victims and work for mine clearance.

Please note that Frederic W. Goudy Lectures are free and open to the public.

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