Orna Feinstein’s Papellibrium
by H.C. Arnold
For the past nine years, Orna Feinstein has been collecting art show invitations by the thousands. Now, she’s finally ready to show her collection in an exhibition at Women and Their Work: Papellibrium.
Here, Feinstein gives us an installation that covers roughly eighty percent of the gallery floor. Her repurposed art show invitations are folded into a variety of organic shapes mostly resembling flower petals. Placed neatly against each other and resting upon the floor, they are compressed within the gallery space. She’s left a narrow path through them that invites the viewer to traverse the work.
Maybe there is a deeper question buried beneath the pretty patterns here about the nature of promotional materials and their real function in the world.
Overall, it’s staggering. Beyond the sheer number of invitations she’s used, the amount of time taken to bend each one and stitch them together must have been immense. Then, there is the carefully arranged installation. She had to simultaneously cover the floor, working from the back corners forward while at the same time making sure to diversify the various combinations of invitations in order to ensure an aesthetic variety. Larger oblong cards sit next to concentrically circled ones. Taller cards peek out over their neighbors and their different colors dot the landscape, making interesting and subtle patterns.
Working in both printmaking and sculpture, Feinstein has a knack for narrowing the division between the two. With her three-dimensional monoprint work, she tests the limits of two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional spaces. These works are printed on plexiglass and fitted together. From straight on, the printed image appears flat. From the side, it disappears. But, from somewhere in between, the image opens out into the gallery space. It is a beautiful reminder that perspective is everything.
Papellibrium also displays the same sensibility to perspective. Looking across the installation, the field of cards appears incredibly dense. Presented with the sides of the cards, they stack up on top of each other, overlapping from the back wall to your feet. But, when viewed from directly overhead, that illusion gives way to the spaces between and inside the cards. Suddenly, you realize there is more of the floor exposed than you initially thought. The cards become thin partitions and nothing more.
Ultimately, Papellibrium shows an artist working comfortably with a concept she’s made her own over the years. There is no doubt that Feinstein understands the delicate space between the different aesthetics she occupies. But, the installation asks: does commercialism generate works of art? These are in fact invitations to other art shows, even as they’ve been rendered useless as such. Maybe there is a deeper question buried beneath the pretty patterns here about the nature of promotional materials and their real function in the world. Do things like press releases and advertisements act as the apparently complicated and dense ground of the industries they support? If so, that ground is weak. As Papellibrium shows, that illusion of a solid base is riddled with holes. It’s impossible to stand on. The field of cards would crumple under our weight. So please, stay on the path.