Repurposed Paper Message Morphs

By: Amy Beck, marketing and communications manager on May 24th, 2011

Those who witness or volunteer to work on a sculpture rising from the earth amid the Woodson Art Museum sculpture garden likely will walk away from the experience with widely varying interpretations of the significance of the piece. And that’s entirely what sculptor-in-residence Steven Siegel expects.
Siegel is leading a corps of volunteers and Museum staff members in creating a 10-foot-tall, 30-foot-long curving wall of more than 28,000 lbs. of stacked and staked paper. Once the two-week project is complete, the sculpture will remain on the Museum grounds for about three years. Throughout that time, any potential message, much like beauty itself, will be in the eye of the beholder.
Although Siegel certainly has definite political views, he doesn’t intend to use the art he creates as a platform to expound upon them. That, he leaves to others.
For example, a press release about his exhibition, “Steven Siegel: Biography,” that was on view at Marlborough Chelsea in New York earlier this year included the following excerpt.
For more than thirty years, Siegel has built a body of work that varies significantly in scale, though con­sistently reflects his ecological concerns through the use of non-traditional materials. In a number of outdoor works such as Big Rift, 2009 at the DeCordova Sculpture Park in Lincoln, MA and Bridge 2, 2009 at Arte Sella, Italy, Siegel seamlessly integrates multiple tons of recycled paper amongst trees, bushes and fallen leaves, prompting the viewer to reconsider the identity and origin of these materials. In other works such as Two of ‘em, 2009 at Penn State Berks in Reading, PA in which the artist bound thousands of aluminum cans in two cylindrical bamboo structures, Siegel places environmentally-threatening materials into pastoral landscapes, though in an aesthetically-pleasing and harmless manner. In each of these works, the artist simultaneously questions human’s rate of consumption and our commitment to preserving the natural environment.”
Siegel says his main concern – his definition of the success of the piece – rests upon whether or not it is aesthetically pleasing.
As Museum staff members planned for a host of logistical details and for the promotion of the Siegel sculpture, we dubbed it the Repurposed Paper Project. Using fourteen tons of paper donated by WausauPaper and Veolia, we were struck by the natural tie to Wausau’s logging and paper industry roots. Afterall, Wausau truly is the town that paper built.
Siegel, a New York-based artist who creates public art in natural and urban environments and has done so in North America, Europe, and Asia, is interested in how his work visually impacts its surroundings and how it changes over time.
As the repurposed paper wall at the Woodson Art Museum weathers, it will first bleach from the sunshine, then begin to take on an organic texture much like the bark of a tree. Eventually, the surface will resemble an exposed hillside with its layers of ancient rock.
Come see the sculpture for yourself, both while the work is underway this week, and throughout the years to come. Perhaps the message that you take away will change over time in ways that echo the metamorphosis of the wall itself.

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