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Cardboard has myriad associations for me starting with early childhood during the Second World War in Great Britain, then moving to the United States and unwrapping Christmas presents from packages sent by English uncles and aunts. Our family moved a lot, and I associated the packing, tying up and unpacking of cardboard boxes of belongings to feelings of both familiarity and displacement.


Even before my early career as a graphic designer, I was drawn to the graphics on supermarket boxes and candy wrappers and the merchandizing of products. I made and showed those boxes, as well as painted wood sculpture and Cornell-inspired 3-dimensional box works but included cardboard and wrapping papers on collages from the 70s/80s-on. Early Soho, NY was rich in boxes, material, string and fabric for collecting. If a piece attracted me, I picked it up, no matter what it was or where I found it. It’s the energy, the charge that draws me. How I juxtapose various fragments with each other is the mystery -- they assume a transformed energy together in a finished work. And I’ve realized that my work has always been about energy—the energy of materials, of edges, of cut-off letters, of how pieces interact.


I moved off paper, made cardboard “fragments”; then explored new possibilities of taking apart a found corrugated cardboard box, wetting the material and exploring its very physical combination of layers, how they stuck together and came apart, exposing the structure. I let them dry and made some large spare pieces where I let the material be the medium, painted or not, sometimes with attached metal, string, mesh, bubble wrap and plastic.


During Pandemic walks out of the house, I tore off sections of colorful billboard paper with and without graphic elements, and collaged them into works of various sizes, playing with chance, accident, intuition, surface, colors or subtle monochromes, gluing them all to corrugated cardboard backgrounds and cutting out the contour, later reinforcing and shellacking the backs to preserve and mount on the wall. I also molded wet corrugated into 3-dimensional forms influenced (I later realized) by the rock formations of Crete, where I have a summer studio, drying, painting or fixing them, sometimes weaving wire in and out. Initially, I don’t know what this material will turn into or what color if any I will paint it; I trust chance and intuition to guide transforming it into art.


Cardboard as a medium has become primary -- humble, honest, subtly variegated in its browns and grays, smooth or corrugated, fragile yet strong, printed, painted or primed. A material that is seen as mundane, something to cover something, something used to transport then discard, I see as ripe with possibility, even transcendent. In my transformation of the material I come to various solutions, whether 2 or 3-dimensional. At the same time, I'm aware that using corrugated for art-making is a kind of reverse recycling, a political statement of defiance in our current globalized commercial culture. I am aware of my historical antecedents, such as Picasso, Rauschenberg, Schoonhoven,  whose influences give me context. I am an artist finding value in something devalued, transforming an unexpected material into something mysterious and magical.      

                                                                                                                                                       Barbara Knight, March, 2024

2023_Lissos_7_2023_9.25x33x3 inches_23.3x84x7.5cm_Corrugated cardboard, gesso, acryic, glu
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