The art of paper cutting originated in China in the 4th century when paper was invented.
This intricate method of design entails the cutting of a single piece of paper rather than the joining of multiple sheets as in collage.
Another level of paper cutting is what the Japanese call kirigami, a variation of origami, which combines folding and cutting, to make a picture, typically without the aid of glue.
The historical style of paper cutting was an adjunct to embroidery design and eventually developed into a unique art form.
While cut paper has traditionally served a decorative purpose it has also morphed into a form of communication, messages and storytelling.
Artist and illustrator, Boo Paterson, divides her time between her native Scotland and New York, where I met her during a studio visit.
I found the beauty of form of Boo’s red Lady Liberty particularly compelling in light of National Women’s History Month.
There are messages as well as beauty in Boo’s fine art. I salute her for honoring her fellow artists and writers! Following are her words:
“I created Je Suis Charlie as the news from the Charlie Hebdo massacre was rolling in. As I’m an illustrator and a national newspaper journalist, I felt the victims were my colleagues and that it could have been me, or any one of my friends, that were murdered.
“I was so angry and distressed, I felt that the only way I could fight back was through art. I knew immediately I wanted to do a pastiche of Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, such is its connection with France, revolution and the strength of women.
“But in place of the bayonet, I cut a paintbrush in honour of the artists killed, and in place of her flag pole, I cut a pen to honour the writers. She writes her message in the ink of Liberté.
“The piece is framed in a French wine crate, as a symbol of what the country was known for before the massacre.
“I’ve had lots of people offering to buy it, even though it has never been for sale. I can’t part with it because of its symbolism to my trades. It is a work that will remain with me always.”
Most of Boo’s fine art papercuts, paper sculptures, and pop-ups are conceptual in style and are often influenced by real-life news events, such as Charlie Hebdo.
In 2016 her work, Sea Sick, was shortlisted in the World Illustration Awards.
Paterson says: “Sea Sick shows refugees drowning in a whirlpool of barbed wire, a comment on the collective inaction of European governments while thousands died in the Mediterranean.”
“The Owl and the Crow is a work that highlights women’s #metoo experiences, showing a woman trapped in a dress of thorns, while the owl – a symbol of hope – looks away. The crow is a traditional symbol of death, and is seen hovering over the woman. Many rape victims have recounted during #metoo how they felt they might die during their ordeal.”
“My paper sculpture Poor shows a tiny figure dwarfed by an imposing white castle-like structure. I wanted to illustrate the effect poverty has on self-esteem and how it raises feelings of worthlessness and ‘otherness’.”
“In life, some give, some take, and I explored this in the work Give/Take, where a riot of hands is seen grabbing for thin air. But look closely and you’ll see half of the hands are opened outwards to give.”