This blog exists to inspire people to seek out all the great art that lives in and around the Minneapolis skyway.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cut paper art injection - Stephanie Beck at PHL

Returning from a victorious Bucks Fever Film Festival to the Twin Cities, I hit the Philadelphia airport in search of a cheesesteak hoagie. While I knew it would not be nearly as good as the one I had in Richlandtown that weekend, it would allow me to live without for another six months or so. Rushing to the bar near my gate, I ran smack into a great exhibit of Stephanie Beck's Cut Paper Sculpture.

Three clear plastic cases are lined up at the end of walkway, causing traffic to disperse into many separate gates. The centerpiece is called "Aviary" (2010) and suits its Terminal D location to a tee. All are made of paper, found objects, thread and glue, and sit largely ignored by Delta travelers. The odd person leans against the boxes to chat on their cell phone, but otherwise, not many folks give the display a second look.

A kind of partially constructed, yet empty city, only shadows of birds live in its intricate structures. The feel of Philadelphia is in this piece, reflecting its ongoing construction, cranes and varying types of buildings. The use of white is striking, because it is somehow lonely, but clean. I believe it is what gives these pieces a sense of being a snap shot in time, as if humans were once here but left in a hurry.

This one, called "Neighborhood Arrangement #1 Circle" (2009), is to the right of "Aviary" and is a more orderly arrangement of edifices. Perhaps it recalls more of a suburban landscape? Beck resides in Philadelphia but surely she has experienced at least some of the expanse of suburbs that stretches out in all directions from the City of Brotherly Love.

While the photos of these at Beck's website and flickr account have the benefit of no reflections, I do love the working airport as a backdrop. The stillness of these paper cuts as juxtaposed against the hustle and bustle of PHL gives the pieces an oddly appropriate temporary home (until January 2011).

"Neighborhood Arrangement #2 Maze" (2009) is to the left as you approach. I'm lifting Beck's words directly from her website, because they sum up the exhibit so well:

I enjoy seeing the bones of these structures, on top of which strong skin is hung, yet which is so easily torn down again. I see these buildings as surrogates for ourselves, revealing our attempts at order and stability despite, or because of, our very human frailties. But secretly, I am most driven by a sense of wonder and play.

I am a new fan of Beck's as these works are both accessible -- made of cut paper -- and skillfully executed, a simple set of communities in white that are rife with contrasts. See Stephanie Beck's flickr page for more shots, as well as the Skyway of Love Facebook page. And, I'm proud to say that I discovered her by keeping my eyes open at the airport. I had that cheesesteak hoagie too. Ahhh, Cheez Whiz and public art can surely sate this wayward traveler.

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