Paper Makes an Impression at Morris Museum

By Maddie Orton
Arts Correspondent

“That’s all made from paper,” you hear parents tell their kids. At Morris Museum’s “Pulp Culture” exhibition, it needs to be said. That same material that makes up your book is used in a surprising number of ways.

Linda Moore is executive director of the museum. “If you told someone, ‘Oh I’m going to see a paper exhibit,’ it might get a ho-hum response,” she says. “But, as you can see from our visitors today, they’re really excited about the creative opportunities.”

That’s because artists use the medium in a variety of ways. Paper is made by hand, and paper is torn by hand. It’s woven, folded, sculpted and even sewn. The show includes a quilted jacket made of tissues, a gown built from dollar bills, and — you may have even owned one — a Campbell’s “Souper Dress.”

“Actually, at that time, paper dresses were in vogue, if you will,” says Moore. “And what Campbell’s Soup did is put out a call to its customers. If they sent in two Campbell’s Soup labels, along with a dollar, they would in turn receive a copy of the Souper Dress.”

Leah Tomaino is a Randolph-based artist who likes working with brown paper bags, in part, because it offers an up-cycling opportunity. “I like to recycle them,” she says. “I’m a big recycler.”

She’s even turned to art as a way to reuse museum rejection letters. That’s the piece that’s hanging in the Morris Museum. “Well it gives it a whole other dimension — a theme that you’re working with,” she says.

It could be considered cathartic, and maybe good luck, too. “It has a sister piece. Its older sister is all filled with gallery rejection letters. And that had a blooming dogwood on it. And after I made that one, I got accepted into a gallery.”

Morris Museum has a history of creating exhibitions that show ordinary objects in extraordinary ways. In addition to their permanent exhibitions on American Indian tribes, mechanical musical instruments, dinosaurs and mammals. “Last spring we did an exhibit that focused on beards and facial hair,” says Moore. “We did a huge exhibition about four years ago on shoes… We believe museums should be dynamic places of exploration.”

And so it is for seventh-grader Vienna Volinksy. “I think it’s really cool to see how an ordinary thing can be used in so many different ways and make new things,” she says. “I was looking at some of the books that were carved out and I was thinking that, with an old book that I have, maybe I could do that.”

With a material that’s so easy to come by, she can give it a shot.