This Saturday, Sept. 8, paper sculptor Kevin Box and his wife, Jennifer, will be on hand at the Dragonfly Gallery, where his work goes on exhibit during the final Arts District event for the 2012 season.
“I have shows and exhibits all over the country, and we really like to be there and meet and greet the collectors and staff of the galleries,” said Mr. Box. “The majority of my work has a story beneath the story somewhere that people like to hear. ”
Mr. Box treats paper as far more than a conduit to expression. Paper — crumpled, molded, folded into origami figures or, simply, as a single blank white sheet paired with other objects — is the subject of his unique metal work.
Based in Santa Fe, Mr. Box transforms the ephemeral and fragile into enduring works in bronze, stainless steel, and aluminum. “My passion is creating the most archival paper in the world by casting it into museum quality metals,” he said in a recent phone interview.
Although the sculptor has created very large pieces for public spaces all over the United States, the works he will show at Dragonfly are all relatively small. Origami cranes, cast in stainless steel and painted white, sit atop attractive natural stones or bronzed olive twigs; a series of origami horses in bronze painted in a variety of colors gallop across a tabletop; freestanding three-dimensional dresses made from wrinkled paper transformed into bronze bob on stands. Against one wall of the gallery, what at first glance looks simply like large sheets of white paper that have been crumpled then smoothed out prove to be aluminum wall sculptures.
Every piece begs for further examination. Mr. Box has so effectively captured the look of paper manipulated into a variety of delicate origami pieces that it is hard to believe you are not looking at the real thing. You almost have to touch it to believe, and Mr. Box encourages just that. He displays “Please Touch” signs wherever his work is exhibited.
“It’s designed to withstand that tactile interaction,” he said of his fragile-looking pieces, “We’re so conditioned in a gallery or museum situation to see ‘Don’t Touch’ that people see the word touch and assume it also says don’t.'”
Mr. Box is the youngest person ever to be elected to the National Sculptors Guild. He interned as a graphic artist before launching his paper-inspired sculpture series. “When I was a graphic designer and printmaker, everything I was creating was sort of package designed,” he said. “The ultimate end result was it was gong to go into a trash pile. I didn’t want all my work to end up in the trash.”
Inspired as a child by watching his mother, an archivist in Oklahoma, work to preserve paper documents, Mr. Box began experimenting with permanent paper sculpture. “I loved working with paper,” he said. “It just didn’t have the durability or potential for deep-time conservation.”
In order to learn the art of metal sculpture, he worked at a number of foundries in Atlanta and Texas, eventually becoming production manager for a large foundry in Austin.
Mr. Box developed the process to capture every edge, crease and, in some cases, watermark, on his paper prototypes by experimenting. He says that part of the process involves techniques that are 5,000 years old. The paper is first covered in wax, which, along with the paper model, eventually burns away completely when it is used to create a ceramic mold. “I joke that it’s a very simple 35-step, 12-week process,” said Mr. Box.
To create his origami pieces, the sculptor has collaborated with physicist and mathematician Robert Lang, who is the world’s leading origami master, according to Mr. Box. “He has created some of the most complicated designs ever seen folded from single pieces of paper.” Some of Dr. Lang’s creations, including a buffalo and a remarkably complex stainless steel elephant, have now been given relative immortality through the collaboration.
Among other pieces featured in the Dragonfly show will be works from a series called Rock, Paper, Scissors, a collaboration with another Santa Fe sculptor, Warren Cullar, and a series featuring cranes nesting high atop upended granite street curb stones that was inspired by Martha’s Vineyard.
Mr. Box’s work at Dragonfly is part of a multi-gallery community event on Saturday, Sept. 8, in the Oak Bluffs Arts District. It is not officially being referred to as a Stroll, since the activities are cut back from the summer events. All of the galleries and shops will be open until 7 pm, however, and many will offer refreshments.
Kevin Box sculpture, reception 4 to 7 pm on Saturday, September 8, Dragonfly Gallery, 91 Dukes County Ave., Oak Bluffs. For information, call 508-693-8877, or go to mvdragonfly.com.