Kirsten Hassenfeld

CHARMS

2003

Paper with mixed media


Collection of Ronald Rosenzweig
“The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper.” The art of Kirsten Hassenfeld proves there is truth to this saying, attributed to author Malcolm Gladwell. She is a contemporary inheritor of a Victorian tradition of creating fanciful paper objects. In the 19th century, household manuals, ladies’ magazines, and etiquette books urged upper- and middle-class women to fill their “idle” leisure time with creative projects, particularly crafts to decorate the home.

Paper made into faceted gems is a hallmark of Hassenfeld’s art. She expands on period papercraft techniques such as quilling, recently revived in popularity, which involves rolling strips of paper into filigree to create intricate designs. Hassenfeld discovered she could make thin tubes, similar to straws, to act as delicate skeletons for three-dimensional forms. By producing her sculpture on a wonderfully enlarged scale, she emphasizes the laborious dexterity, beauty, and potential grandeur of what was once known condescendingly as one of the “lesser arts” of handicraft. Hassenfeld’s work expresses longing. Her elaborate forms are a fantasy of richness spun from the most prosaic of materials. There is a formal tension the artist develops between the hardness and strength of a gemstone and the extreme fragility of art made from paper.