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Q&A with Artist Craig Tinsky

Q&A with artist Craig Tinsky, whose work is  on display at JHU MCC through Oct. 30.

Hopkins  Happenings: Tell us about the exhibit.

Photo of Craig TinskyCraig Tinsky: All pieces are made of cut paper and nothing else, except perhaps glue. There are two styles of papercut images I make.  Some look like pop-art and are made of layers of different colored paper.  If I mention the iconic Obama Hope poster, it gives an idea of the impressions created by these images.  They are similar in appearance to silk screened images, like well-known Andy Warhol portraits. The other style of paperpcut I make looks like a series of ribbons of papers.  There are alternating stripes created simply by cutting precisely measured choppy lines in a sheet of paper.  The end result is similar to pixelization.  The image is made of two colors only, but from a distance, it looks like a black and white photograph (or blue and yellow etc) with gradations of color.  I call this technique Ribbon-Halftone.  A halftone is a photography term.  It usually refers to dots of black on a white background that come together to look like hundreds of different grays.  Similarly, these papercuts resemble photographs.  I developed this technique two years ago, and I am very excited by it.  

Hopkins Happenings: Tell us about the materials you use.

Tinsky: I buy colored paper from art stores, and use No. 11 surgical scalpels to do my cutting.  It is all cut by hand.  I have huge rolls of Tyvek that I also use with some frequency.  Tyvek is the paper-like material used to wrap houses.  FedEx envelopes are made of it.  It is very strong and resists tearing.  I like it for big pieces because I don't need to worry that they could tear under their own weight.  It comes in black and white.  The two largest portraits in the exhibit (each almost 4 feet high) are made of Tyvek.

Hopkins Happenings: What do you hope someone looking at the exhibit experiences or learns from your work?

tinsky statue of libertyTinsky: I hope that people enjoy the images and the fact that the pieces are nontraditional portraiture.  People often ask if it wouldn't be easier for me to draw or paint the same pictures.  The answer is "yes," of course it would be easier.  The fun for me is not necessarily the product, but the project.  How do I get this image out of that material just by cutting holes?  I've seen a fellow at the boardwalk who will write your name on a grain of rice.  You may not care for that, but you must admit that it takes more talent than writing your name on a watermelon.   I hope that viewers enjoy the style, the medium, and the whimsy.

Hopkins Happenings: What is your inspiration?

Tinsky: I see each piece as a challenge.  A large part of each image is not rendered by me.  It is inserted by the viewer.  I create portraits that are missing information.  The arrangement of the cut ribbons suggests what was there, and the viewer's brain puts in the missing information to re-create what it expects it should be seeing.  You may look at a portrait, and think you see individual hairs on the subject's head, or freckles on his nose.  As you approach, you may not even be able to distinguish a nose at all.