Painting with Paper

O'More College of Design

by David Rosen,President of O’More College of Design 

You can almost feel and savor the gelato sitting in the chilled case that artist Carolyn Beehler remembers from her time in Italy and that she has captured with paper, little bits of paper cut from magazines, thousands of pieces that look like the strokes of a brush dredged in oil paint. That is some of the magic of Beehler’s art.

On February 5, as part of Franklin’s Art Scene, O’More College of Design will open an exhibition entitled Frolics in Italy by paper-painting artist and O’More alumna Carolyn Beehler. Calling herself a “collagist,” Beehler’s description does not begin to cover her extraordinary technique and her unique vision.

Frolics in Italy is a series of works based on a summer Beehler spent farm-hopping from northern to southern Italy. The works are deceptively realistic and deceptively simple. Unless you look carefully you will think they are creations in oil by a modern impressionist with a feeling for light, color, form, sensation, and emotion. Though she is a modern impressionist, that is not all she is.

“Unlike traditional painting,” Beehler explains, “I cut my brush strokes, and this forces me to act deliberately. I don’t have the luxury of a brush that can smudge, blend, dab and feather. I work with paper’s hard edges.”

Beehler begins by gluing foundational colors, which you can detect if you look closely. Then she lays on the strips of color that resemble cut out paint strokes of varying size, from apricot size to fennel seed.

Because the process is slow and deliberate, the creation period causes her to revisit her memories.

She is well aware that she is painting a picture of memories with pictures. “Each collage began as hundreds of individual pictures, all with the ability to evoke memories and emotions. As the bits of each individual picture come together, the work takes form and our imagination and memories intensify.”

Left behind in the seams of the works—on the edges of a cornice or the fluting of a gelato—are letters or words that remind us that this is paper. “I work with a medium that is thousands of textures, words and symbols,” Beehler explains, “and so anything I portray has layers of story and symbolism one could not find in just oil paint.”

O'More College of Design

“If I succeed,” Beehler says, “I will communicate the harmony between imagination and life. My hope is that seeing these pieces both up close and far away will trigger the viewer’s own memories and illuminate them with richer meaning.”

Beehler’s rich, evocative and beautiful works will be on view from February 6 to February 26 at the Robert N. Moore, Jr., Fine Arts Gallery, 
Abbey Leix Mansion, O’More College of Design. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The opening reception on Feb. 5 from 6-9 p.m. will take place as part of Franklin’s February Art Scene and is open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

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