Caroline Garrett Hardy, Lakshmi Kimono, Courtesy of the artist

The Magical World of Paper Kimonos

Caroline Garrett Hardy

July 21, 2023 - October 15, 2023
  • Academic Gallery

About the exhibition

For artist Caroline Garrett Hardy, creating with paper requires a bit of wizardry and enchantment. Hardy developed a passion for the magic of paper in her early years as a printmaker, beginning first with Japanese “rice” paper (actually made from mulberry tree fibers), and later expanding her appreciation to many other paper types, such as gampi, lokta, banana leaf, amate bark, agave, hemp, silk, crepe, and cotton. Each type of fiber has a unique character and requires an intimate knowledge of its particular strengths and properties. To understand those properties, Hardy will tear, fold, rip, cut, shred, soak, and crush the paper, looking at the way it “remembers” the folds, or resists and absorbs water, frays at the edges, rips along a grain or not, or remains crisp and impervious to her manipulations. Each characteristic provides a clue to that paper’s special usage, which can then be crafted into flat, three-dimensional, bas-relief, or overlaid elements of a final artwork. She coaxes the magic out of her papers, and the papers in turn reveal her fantastical worlds.

Hardy’s creations are often crafted in the form of apparel. Most of those works in this exhibition are in the shape of kimonos, a Japanese item of clothing that both lends an Asian flair to the collection, and also (conveniently) provides a large, relatively open canvas upon which to work.  Each kimono contains one or more themes suggested by Hardy’s imagination, or triggered by current events, ancient history, scientific developments, and other diverse sources of inspiration. Several works in this gallery are from her Abecedary Project series. These kimonos take a single letter of the alphabet as their point of departure, and are further inspired by three words beginning with that letter, which the artist solicits from various friends.  

A piece of paper’s inherent qualities, like texture or flexibility, guide Hardy’s choice of how to represent a chosen theme. For example, her Keyhole Kimono was a response to recent droughts in Central Africa. It’s based on an actual garden design, developed in Africa to be highly water-efficient by using an impervious wall to prevent runoff. The resulting kimono drew on stiff, inflexible paper to create the kimono’s outer shape, mimicking those walls, while the "vegetables” inside the kimono were created from easily foldable papers. The Knight’s Quest Kimono was inspired by brass rubbings from a 14th-century crypt in Salisbury, England that were given to the artist. To accommodate the brittleness of the rubbing paper, Hardy applied the rubbings in strips, while choosing pliable, colorful rice papers to create the bulk of the kimono. 

Taking her cues from both a chosen theme and the staggering variety of papers available from the globe’s different cultures, Hardy builds her own artistic worlds in these richly colorful and intricately designed works of art.

Unless otherwise noted, all works on view are courtesy of the artist. 

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