100-Day Project turns into art exhibition
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It was several weeks into quarantine when Paulina Johnson decided to participate in an Instagram challenge, known as the 100-Day Project, during which artists make or do something for 100 days in a row.
“As a maker, I felt I needed some sort of structure and an incentive to continue my art practice in a productive way, even if on my dining room table,” Johnson said. “It became a really good way to sort of escape the fear and uncertainty of the time.”
The project began on April 7, and for 100 days – though not consecutively – Johnson created illustrations depicting regular, everyday objects made out of strips of paper glued on their sides to create a 3D image. She chose her objects randomly, based on her stream of consciousness.
“100 is a lot, so I didn’t want to overthink or overanalyze any of it,” she said. “Sometimes I’d go for a walk and note whatever caught my attention. Sometimes I’d decide on an object based on the shapes it was made of. Other times they came from fun thoughts or memories.”
Most of the time, however, it was more about learning how to work with and manipulate the strips of paper she was working with.
“Each posed a little bit of a different challenge in the making, which was pretty fun,” she said.
What: Short Stories Exhibition by Paulina M. Johnson
When: Dec. 4 to 27
Where: Pine Moon Fine Art Gallery, 117 Ninth St., Steamboat Springs
Johnson has worked with paper for many years, although her background is in graphic design.
“I absolutely love paper,” she explained. “I love its texture. I love its strength and versatility. I love its history, and I embrace the idea of making it the sole hero in an art piece.”
She points out that paper has been used as a vessel for thousands of years, for ink or paint, but almost always fades into the background without being noticed. Johnson’s process is about making the paper the hero and working with it so that it interacts with light to create different and changing light and shadows.
Initially her goal was simply to finish the challenge and make 100 pieces. But as they began accumulating, she noticed their semiotic power.
“Any and all random objects can hold special significance for people,” Johnson noted. “They can trigger a memory or inspire a thought. My hope is that people will be reminded of something or someone in their lives and that they will realize there’s a personal story attached to those memories which may overlap with that of others.”
The pieces include objects like a marshmallow on a stick, a donut, a microscope, a vacuum cleaner and a bee. Each piece, she said, makes up the complete collection and tells a story, and now that story, aptly titled “Short Stories,” is on display at the Pine Moon Fine Art Gallery in downtown Steamboat Springs until Dec. 27.
At the start of the project, Johnson never realized its potential to become a gallery exhibition.
While limited amounts of viewers are allowed in the gallery at a time, private showings can also be arranged by appointment.
Johnson is asking those who purchase a piece to write down a short story about how they connected with that piece or what they were reminded of when they saw it. Once the piece is removed from the gallery wall, the short story will replace it.
“In the end,” Johnson explained, “I hope to have a lot of hand-written short stories displayed. And who knows, maybe eventually I’ll design a book about the entire project including these short stories. It’s my dream.”
The official opening of the show is 5 p.m. Friday during First Friday Artwalk. A limited number of guests will be allowed inside the gallery at a time. The gallery also will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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