Exhibition Seeks to Decolonize and Redefine Paper

Works from Indigenous & oral cultures debut in Minneapolis April 14–August 12, 2023

Minnesota Center for Book Arts is pleased to debut Paper Is People: Decolonizing Global Paper Cultures this April. Curated by Tia Blassingame and Stephanie Sauer, this free exhibition offers a new definition of paper within a global and decolonial framework. Featuring works by local, national, and international artists, the exhibition explores the vital role substrates play in human communities and how meaning is made from paper and papermaking. The exhibition runs April 14–August 12, 2023.

“In the world today, the dominant definition of paper as a single sheet of processed plant fiber dictates how we value the language, literature, [and] knowledge production…of a people,” Blassingame and Sauer write in their curatorial statement. Through the diverse works on display, they show that paper encompasses many things across many cultures—from tapestries and quilts to baskets and even clothing—each piece functioning as a site of cultural memory, survival, or resistance.

Tia Blassingame is an Assistant Professor of Book Arts at Scripps College, and is the Director of Scripps College Press, an experimental bookbinding and letterpress laboratory for students. Stephanie Sauer is a writer, book artist, publisher, and author, and currently teaches writing in Stetson University’s MFA of the Americas program and develops Lolmĕn Publications for the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians.

Exhibiting artists include:
  • Papermaker Aimee Lee, who embodies her research of Korean papermaking (hanji) in her artwork, teaching, and practice;
  • Alisa Banks, a visual artist based in Dallas, Texas, whose sculptural artist’s books and textile collages investigate connections to her Creole heritage and the African diaspora;
  • Chenta T. Laury, a Maui-based artist and educator whose recent work merges artistic traditions related to her biological origins: patchwork quilting (African-American) and felting (Finnish), with artistic traditions from Hawaii;
  • Hannah Chalew, who explores what it means to live in Southern Louisiana in a time of global warming through art pieces ranging from works on paper to large-scale installations;
  • Hong Hong, a Chinese artist who combines ancestral methods of Chinese papermaking with painting and monastic rituals;
  • Page Pūko‘a Chang, who has spent the last ten years embracing the traditional Hawaiian practice of Kapa making from Wauke trees she grows herself;
  • Radha Pandey, who specializes in letterpress printing and Indo-Islamic papermaking, and has books held in over 80 collections internationally;
  • Rhiannon ‘Skye’ Tafoya, who creates artist’s books, prints, and paper weavings to preserve, archive, and share personal and familial stories, Indigenous cultural teachings, and the Cherokee language.

Visitors will have the opportunity to see paper samples and source materials, watch papermaking processes from source to finish, read interviews and watch videos from contemporary artists and traditional practitioners, and participate in a variety of workshops and talks. After premiering at Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Paper Is People will travel to the San Francisco Center for the Book from October–December, 2023. 

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov. This research was supported by a Craft Research Fund grant from the Center for Craft.