Nebraska Now: Susan Knight, Cut Paper

July 26 – October 12, 2008—

In the last few years, Susan Knight has moved into the realm of paper-cutting to create small and large sculptural forms that fill walls, ceilings, and entire rooms. In this most recent body of work, featured in her first solo exhibition at the Museum of Nebraska Art entitled See the Water, Knight focuses on, quite simply – water. This subject is found consistently throughout the artist’s cut paper series and is undoubtedly influenced by growing up near the Great Lakes area of Michigan. Now a longtime Omaha resident, Knight’s work created for See the Waterlooks to the Papillion Creek Water System located in Nebraska’s Washington, Douglas, and Sarpy Counties.

Trained as a painter, Knight’s shift into paper-cutting found its genesis in two encounters: a childhood memory of cutting a design into paper to create a lantern, and viewing paper works in the 2001 exhibition Origami Architecture at the American Craft Museum in New York. Both experiences gave Knight the impetus to begin making marks with an exacto knife on 140 pound paper. From the beginning with this new medium, Knight has explored water – its geography, patterns, and effects on the environment and the environment’s effects upon it. As the artist states, “The cuts produced light, shadow, and tangible depth, which seemed appropriate to and a metaphor for the power of water.” Such is true for See the Water.

The exhibition is comprised of four separate works that quietly inhabit and subtly transform the Yanney Skylight Gallery. A large wall piece titled The Shape of Water is a delicate, lyrical, and intricate form that recreates the basic shapes made when water is moving. Spanning over 35 feet in length and seven feet in height, the work consists of numerous separate and large cut paper pieces that, in places, are layered over one another to create one continuous large work. It is both peaceful and a bit daunting to look at. The time invested to create the work is obvious and incidental. Yet when thinking about water, how it can calmly flow yet cut and carve into the land, it is easily a basic element accessible to all.

While Knight specifically references the Papillion Creek Water System, the exhibition also speaks within a larger context. In Nebraska as well as nationally and internationally, water issues are increasingly paramount. Looking at the Papillion Creek, Knight is investigating attempts to curtail and control nature by creating an artificial flow of the water. The general question is: when there is unnatural interference with nature, what harm is being done, not only today and not only visually, but long-term and environmentally. And then, where do responsibilities lie?

Susan Knight attended the School of The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Glass School of Art, Houston, Texas; and University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College, South Bend, Indiana, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Art degree. Solo exhibitions include Sheldon Connections, Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, Nebraska; Water Stories, Firehouse Gallery, Grants Pass, Oregon; Floating From Grace, Lied Center for the Arts, Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska; and Pixieland, Wallace-Musket Gallery, Blue Star Arts Complex, San Antonio, Texas, among others. Group exhibitions include those at SOHO20 Chelsea Gallery, New York City; Rye Arts Center, Rye, New York; Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha; Kentler International Drawing Space, Brooklyn, New York; and the Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, Maryland. Her works are included in public and private collections, including the Museum of Nebraska Art.