In elementary school, a class project of mine one year was Flat Stanley. Based on a popular children’s novel, you would photograph a paper cut out of a man in different places and attach a narrative. I gave my little guy to my dad’s aunt when she traveled to Italy. I dressed him in a beret and stripped shirt, not realizing the difference between the French and Italians at such a young age.
A long time has passed since then, but Lisa Nilsson’s “Tissue Series” reminds me of my Flat Stanley, before being flat of course.
Nilsson constructs anatomically detailed sculptures of the human the body using an intriguing medium, rolled, narrow strips of paper. Japanese mulberry paper to be exact. The process is called ‘quilling,’ and the effect is stunning. The quilling of each structure is unique and fascinating. It is difficult to imagine these are rolls of paper simply on first glance, but the viewer is soon spellbound upon acknowledgment of the materials.
There is a high level of resolution to the sculptures Nilsson creates. In “Head I (detail),” the viewer can see the many intricate, concentric folds of paper used: circles, spirals, and ovals all curved to the contour of the tissue being depicted. The color of paper used also adds to the initial feeling of disbelief: it is essentially flesh-like.
A personal favorite of mine is “Head II.” In the sculpture, depicting a transverse section, the viewer can see the optic nerves from the eye through the brain. This particular piece personifies the subject looking at some object, which always makes smile.
While I was designing my Flat Stanley, I wondered what my little paper would look like on the inside if real. Nilsson settles that boyhood pondering, and instead raises another. Does the name “Tissue Series” refer to the medium or the subject? Spend a few minutes viewing Nilsson’s work, and you too may start to feel like Flat Stanley.