Two Swedish artists. One French word. Countless sheets of paper.
Swedish artists Bea Szenfeld and Stina Wirsén are obsessed with an unexpected yet completely common material. Their exhibition "Papier" (pronounced "paw-pea-yay," French for "paper") showcases Szenfeld's haute-couture-style sculptural paper fashion artworks and Wirsén's accompanying dreamy ink and watercolor drawings.
The artists' high-fashion paper garments have been worn by celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Björk.
Their exhibit makes its debut Saturday as the American Swedish Institute reopens to the public for the second time in the past year, having closed most recently in November in accordance with Gov. Tim Walz's COVID-19 restrictions.
"Papier" spans the entire two-building complex, beginning in the ground-level Osher Gallery and continuing through all three floors of the Turnblad Mansion next door.
The two artists met when Wirsén was on staff at Sweden's largest morning paper, Dagens Nyheter, and immediately hit it off. Their labor-intensive process is well-displayed in a dapper, full-length dress cascading from black to gray to white that looks like a mink coat.
Wirsén's graceful drawings offer a two-dimensional mirror of the bizarre paper sculptures while inviting viewers into the process.
"We do a lot of experiments with paper in the studio, and that is an important source of inspiration," said Szenfeld in a catalogue essay for the show. "Folklore, crafts and fairy tales are also recurring themes."
Don't miss the devastating, pandemic-relevant third-floor installation "Grief," an installation of 43 baby-shaped recycled paper and white glass bead sculptures inside a single enclosed square. Szenfeld hopes the installation will help people start talking about the grief one feels after losing a loved one.
The exhibition also includes a gallery devoted only to the artists' workspaces, which include scatterings of shaped paper, maps of different cities, and random post-its. Viewers can feel like they are stepping into the creative process.
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