Art at “Paper Routes” A Statement on Current Events

Showcase of Paper Marvels Opens at National Museum of Women in the Arts

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Elizabeth Alexander, All Things Bright and Beautiful (Side 1). Photo: Sarah Payne

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (1250 New York Ave NW) unveiled “Paper Routes – Women to Watch” on Thursday, Oct. 8. The exhibit, which runs through January 18, 2021, features a collection of works by 22 female artists from around the world. Each piece makes a statement about current events, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. 

This installment is the sixth of the “Women to Watch” series in Washington. These installments appear every two to three years and are a collaboration between the museum and participating outreach committees located from all around the world. All of the art on display in the Paper Routes exhibition is made from different forms of paper and includes art forms of printing, sculpture and tearing. 

This year’s exhibit is unique in multiple ways. As the COVID-19 pandemic prevented artists from installing their own work in the space, curators relied on platforms like Zoom to execute the artist’s goals in the showroom. Curators said that overall, the artists were pleased with the end result of the installations. 

Natasha Bowdoin, Contrariwise (2011). This painstaking painted cut-out draws on the dialogue of Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass.”

Orin Zahara is an assistant curator at the museum and one of the co-curators for the exhibit and spoke to Hill Rag about the challenges that pandemic posed in setting up this exhibition, originally scheduled to open to the public earlier this summer. 

“Installing it was a different experience in it was a much more collaborative experience,” she said. “We were supposed to have multiple artists come on site to install, but instead, we had to work with them very closely in order to install it ourselves.”

Zahara said the location for this exhibit is particularly special for women and women’s history. 

“This is the only major museum in the world that showcases and champions women through the arts,” Zahara said. “Ironically, it was a Freemasons temple that didn’t allow women. So really, this museum is about reclaiming women’s history.”

Hyeyoung Shin, Tide, 2019-2020. Shin used a traditional Korean craft technique called ‘Jiho-gibeop’ to create 47 casts of paper feet. Inspired by the 2017 Women’s March, the casts ponder the path as we walk through current gender, social and political issues.

Zahara encouraged people to come to the museum to explore something new, saying the show gives a glimpse into the creative ingenuity of women artists working in a diverse, eclectic medium.

“That’s sort of deceivingly simple, but it’s actually very complex and it and you’ll be surprised by the kinds of works that you see in these galleries,” the assistant curator noted.

The museum also has several permanent exhibitions on the third floor and a temporary exhibition that’s called return to nature on the first floor. Both exhibits are open to the public during normal operating hours.  

The site requires face coverings and a timed entry pass to enter. The museum is practicing social distancing and has enhanced cleaning and sanitizing to keep guests safe amid the global pandemic.

The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets must be purchased online ahead of time and are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (65+) and students and free for members and children under the age of 18.

The size and scale of the works is best appreciated in person, but you see the works online at nmwa.org/whats-on/exhibitions/online/paper-routes-women-to-watch-2020

Sarah Payne is a History and Neuroscience student at The University of Michigan interning with HillRag. She writes for and serves as an assistant news editor for Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can reach her at [email protected]