The art of Scherenschnitte (pronounced “Sharon – SNITT,” German for “scissor cuts”) can be traced back to the 16th century, yet today it is having a revival of sorts, thanks in part to internationally recognized contemporary artists like Kara Walker and Bovey Lee who both employ the paper-cut technique as a narrative device in their respective works.
But just as it was a popular craft form in 18th- and 19th-century America, it has returned as a craft movement unto itself. And currently, there’s no better place to see some of the best examples of this craft than at Gallery Sim in the South Side. That’s because the current show “Rock, Paper, Scissors” features the work of Kathryn Carr, a local Scherenschnitte artist from Bethel Park who is quickly making a name for herself in her own right.
The 35 pieces by Carr on display are largely based on well-known classic fairy tales, like “Alice in Wonderland,” “Jack and the Beanstock” and “Peter and the Wolf,” as well as a few lesser-known ones like “Little Suck-a-Thumb” and “Shockheaded Peter,” which are of Azerbaijani origin.
Since 2008, Carr has been experimenting with a contemporary style of Scherenschnitte. “I am enticed by the bold effects of the cut paper silhouette and the dramatic play of the shadows they cast,” she says. “I love how the simplicity of the lines in a silhouette can produce such complex expressions and conjure vivid memories and feelings.”
Carr’s creative process starts with a basic image or idea in mind, “I then examine different ways and possibilities to portray it,” she says, adding that, “I try and use a composition that is different from the ordinary.”
“I sketch out my idea, with careful consideration of the lines and shapes that will be cut away,” Carr says. “Sometimes, my designs are cut all from one piece of paper, while others use an assortment of papers. I then draw the image on the back of the paper that is to be cut. Using a special knife, I start the cutting process. I try and cut from the middle of the design first, turning the paper when I need to cut in different directions. Cutting from the middle of the design helps keep the stability of the paper intact.”
Carr says her favorite part of the process is when a section is cut out and removed to reveal the empty space, and that’s where the work gets really interesting. In “Split Decision,” one of the “Alice in Wonderland” pieces, the negative space is highlighted by a shadowbox effect, behind which the shadows from Carr’s wispy lines play with the intricate silhouette she has cut in thick black paper.
The shadowboxed pieces are the most dramatic in the show, and the most effective. But Carr doesn’t seem content with that. In “Fisherman and His Wife,” she has added various pieces of colored paper behind each of the characters and components in the allegorical scene depicted. The fish is the most vibrant, being backed by a glowing orange, hand-dyed paper.
Given this skillful display, it’s no wonder Carr is currently working on a children’s book, a line of greeting cards, and a series of images to be woven into rugs in Azerbaijan.
“In the future, I would like to be printing my own images on a letter press, work with wood cuts, teach classes, and animate my work with stop-motion photography,” she says. Ambitious goals, but no less attainable for an artist who most certainly has the talent to take up the task.
Carr is not the only artist in the show. Sculptor Daniel Peluso of Edgeworth displays his sculptures, lamps and furniture, some older works, but most newer. And like Carr’s pieces, a few follow through with the cut-out theme, but in steel.
For example, two coffee tables are ingeniously made of salvaged solid-steel plates, out of which Peluso has cut parts for the legs and welded them beneath the holes from which they were cut, as if dropping below the surface itself to support it.
Peluso was once a studio assistant to John Henry, the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based creator of the public sculpture officially named “Pittsburgh” (but known locally as “The French Fries”) that was placed in Frank Curto Park (alongsdie Bigelow Boulevard) in 1976.
That was in 2001, shortly after completing the art program at University of Kentucky, Lexington. He has since moved back to the Sewickley area, where he grew up, and set up shop in the Leetsdale Industrial Park where he makes his wares from industrial cast-offs.
“I call it re-appropriating things, instead of recycling. It’s sort of a stale term,” he says.
That’s why sculptures like “Wall Sentry,” which ingeniously scales a gallery wall via a weighted pulley, is comprised of factory-production wheels and other parts he salvaged. And its also why “Migration,” which dominates the gallery at nearly 9 feet tall, is made up of a multitude of similar cherrywood U-shaped components he found at an auction in Ohio.
“Sometimes, I’ll work from a specific concept, but there are dozens of ideas in them,” Peluso says of his work while pointing to that piece in particular, which he so named because it has been moved more times than he can count.
The remaining dozen or so works by him on display are just as compelling, making for an engaging exhibit not to be missed.
What: Sculptures, lamps and furniture by Daniel Peluso and cut-paper silhouettes by Kathryn Carr
When: Through April 11. Hours: Noon-4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays
Where: Gallery Sim, 1735 E. Carson St., South Side
Details: 412-586-4531 or Web site