Now on display in Steele Gallery, Phoenix Art Museum’s Paper! exhibition includes works on paper and about paper, featuring fashion, photography and pieces from four continents.

Rarely-exhibited work from the Museum’s collection is on display, along with special loans and commissions from area artists and collectors.

The exhibition attempts to broaden the understanding of paper both as a material and a subject for artists.

Manufactured paper dates back to China in 2 A.D. Now, it is mostly associated as being made from trees, but can be made from a variety of materials such as cactus, grass, bamboo, cotton or even jeans. A prevalent part of daily life, paper usage has increased by 400 percent in the past 40 years, according to

Phoenix Art MuseumWith paper as such a ubiquitous material, Phoenix Art Museum began to consider paper’s role in creating art.

Lead by Jim Ballinger, Phoenix Art Museum’s Sybil Harrington Director, the Museum’s curatorial and education departments sorted through thousands of works in the Museum’s collection, identifying close to 200 pieces that best captured the impact of paper in art.

“It was exciting to bring every curator to the table, to work together in this way,” says Ballinger. “It was also exciting to create a dialogue among different works of art in the collection with the assistance of our educators and installation team.”

The exhibition also provided an opportunity to open up a conversation about art with the local community. At a First Friday at the Museum, a community event that invites people of all ages to attend the Museum at no cost the first Friday of each month, visitors responded to a simple question: What do you think of when you hear the word “paper”? Responses filled hundreds of sticky notes with everything from money and trees to the NBC television show “The Office” and a drawing of toilet tissue.

“As we sorted through their responses, we noticed many of their ideas fell into several natural categories,” Blake says. “We used those categories as a basis for how we then organized the exhibition.”

The result is a complex collection from big names like Norman Rockwell, as well as relative unknowns. Works include delicate, hand-painted Asian scrolls; Pop Art paper dresses from the 1960s; a white, steel sculpture emulating crumpled paper by Phoenix metal sculptor Pete Deise; and papier-mâché sculptures by Tucson artist Michael Cajero.

On view until September 23, 2012, Phoenix Art Museum’s Paper! explores the impact on the world of art of something as seemingly simple as paper.

For more information about the Phoenix Art Museum, visit:

Phoenix Art Museum

1625 N. Central Avenue,
(602) 257-1222