For Chie Hitotsuyama, print is not dead. The Japanese artist uses discarded dailies to make life-size, and incredibly lifelike, animal sculptures.
The process is a bit like papier-mâché 2.0. First, Hitotsuyama selects individual pieces of newspaper based on the color of the ink on the page. Then, one by one, she wets each sheet, rolls it by hand, and glues the material in place. For her largest subjects—just think for a moment about the girth of a 2,000-pound walrus—the process can take up to three months.
The technique has proved remarkably versatile; Hitotsuyama’s ink-and-paper menagerie contains iguanas, sea turtles, gorillas, dugongs, and more. For each specimen, the painstakingly positioned newspaper creates characteristic contours of scales, shells, fur, and skin. Her pieces seem poised to wander off into their natural habitats at any moment.
Having grown up in a family that ran a paper mill, Hitotsuyama may have gravitated naturally toward the medium. But her choice is also a symbolic one: “A piece of newspaper is fragile and the existence of animals is vulnerable, but I feel the strength in them,” she says.
Hitotsuyama’s work is on exhibition through January 7 at the Museum of Art and History’s satellite gallery, MOAH:CEDAR, in Lancaster, California. While serving as MOAH’s artist-in-residence, Hitotsuyama will also create a new series focusing on the native wildlife of Southern California. The Los Angeles Times has donated 1,000-plus pounds of newspaper for the project. Start the presses (and the rolling)!
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