rie hachiyanagi



most afternoons you can find me in this space. i spend my afternoons, as many moms do, in the halls outside my daughter's ballet studio. my older daughter and i sit on the floor, eat snacks, and do our homework. and for the last month or so, we have been choosing to sit under this beautiful thing.

our ballet studio is in an enormous old mill building in holyoke, massachusetts, now called 'open square'. holyoke, at one point, was an industrial giant in north america. a long time ago this now decaying city was the largest paper producing center in the united states. there are many beautiful old buildings lining the canals that used to take raw materials in and finished product out from the connecticut river nearby. open square was one of the largest factory buildings in holyoke. it is slowly being re-habbed and made in to artist's studios, businesses, cafe's, shops.... and there is this gorgeous gallery space on the fourth floor.

a couple of months ago we started seeing some people putting up this art piece. we didn't know what they were doing-- people are always doing something over there and we just keep to ourselves and work on our homework. it took several weeks to install, but when it was up-- we were absolutely enthralled. the piece is called 'paper city: trace', and it is by paper artist, rie hachiyanagi. this photograph is from her website.

last night we were sitting under the piece, against the wall at a respectful distance, but still very much sharing it's space-- when the artist arrived with a friend. they proceeded to talk about the piece and the process of making it while we sat, a little uncomfortable about intruding, and listened. after a while we struck up a conversation with hachiyanagi and her friend-- and we had the chance to express our appreciation for 'paper city' and also for being included in getting to hear the artist talk about her work

'paper city: trace' was created from a room, almost an enormous bin, in the basement of open square that was filled with decades (hachiyanagi estimates 60 to 80 years) old paper pulp. when hachiyanagi was asked by the owner of open square if she wanted to do something with it, the pulp filled the room, but miraculously was not moldy. it is colored orange-ish by the rust from the metal posts in the room-- rust that seeped through the whole of the pulp over the decades. there are gray areas as well-- dust. hachiyanagi cut the pulp with a chain saw at times, removing chunks and finding some of the wooly-sheep-like pulp that still had enough life in it to make paper. the rest she turned into these chunks of paper pulp-- arranged like the buildings of holyoke's 'flats' (the factory area of town).

from the still-living pulp hachiyanagi made paper, which she does by hand-- and it flies off from the 'city' heading out into the world. the paper itself changes over the arch that it makes towards the ceiling-- representing the way that paper-making changed over time. it is wonderful because you can walk right under the paper, and see very clearly how much it changes. at the very top are 'clouds' that are the actual pieces of pulp that had been spread out on the ceilings of the pulp room to dry-- part of the process of making paper-- but left behind for all these decades. hachiyanagi put starch on them to give them support, and then peeled them off the ceiling very carefully-- they now hang from the netting just as they were taken off the ceiling. beautiful parts of the process.

it was a magical experience.

the exhibit is up until april 16, 2011. if you live in the connecticut valley, stop in to open square, building 4-- and take a look. it is well worth the trip.

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