I met artist Maude White at Grit N Glory on NYC’s Lower East Side at an opening reception for Carrier Pigeon Magazine. Her medium is cut paper. She illustrated “The Girl Who was Struck by Lightning,” a quite peculiar short story by Chris Stanton. If there is a literary genre called Backwoods Surreal Noir, this story fits the bill.
I’m a professor, so I naturally asked Maude where she studied. She told me she had never studied illustration. In fact, she only recently began taking classes at Buffalo State in areas that interest her. Maude’s artwork is quite wonderful. I tell my students one doesn’t need a degree to be an illustrator. Maude White proves that point.
I emailed her a few questions and apologized for the rather dumb one I asked her at the gallery.
“No worries about the college question! I went to a Waldorf School for my early, formative years. I think that influenced my art in many ways. Waldorf Schools place a very high importance on handwork and visual storytelling. Also, I come from a family of visual storytellers. My mother and my sister are both gifted toymakers, and my mother is a puppetmaker as well.”
Who are your artistic influences?
“I am influenced by my mother’s art a great deal. When I was little she would make wool felt playscapes – little scenes of a tree stump in a forest-covered in plants and animals, a small garden scene with vegetables and apple trees, a playscape for the story The Three Billy Goats Gruff. It was these types of small, precious, complete worlds that drew me to working with paper. I like the idea of the stark contrast between the black and white paper, and the cut nature of the work makes my art more three-dimensional than paint on canvas. I have always been fascinated by small, hidden, secret things. I like the idea of looking in, or through. With paper cutting there are so many opportunities to create negative space that tells its own story, just by letting the observer become present in the piece, by allowing him or her to look through it. I like that.”
How did you become an illustrator for Carrier Pigeon?
“I met Russ (Spitkovsky, Editor-in-chief ) at the Book Fest at the Western NY Book Arts Center in Buffalo last summer. We were both vendors and our tables were next to each other. At the time I was making tiny carousel books with pop-out paper cut panels (a carousel book is a type of book that ‘pops’ out into a star shape). Russ and I got to talking and he expressed interest in having me illustrate a story for Carrier Pigeon. He sent me Chris Stanton’s ‘The Girl Who Was Struck By Lightning’ to illustrate for CP9. I never talked to Chris, but after CP9 came out he reached out to me via Facebook and expressed his delight over our collaboration. It was great, and I’m glad to have made that connection.”
What are you working on now?
“Currently I’m working on some large pieces, roughly 24 in. x 18 in. and very intricately cut. One is a giant hand, the other is an elephant. The hand will be exhibited at the Western New York Book Arts Center’s member show. Also, I am completing panels for a small 4 in. x 4 in. paper cut alphabet book. Each panel has the papercut letter and usually two things that relate to that letter. For example, ‘D’ shows a dragon blowing fire at a dandelion. ‘S’ has a snail sitting on the ‘S’ looking down at a ship. This has been a really fun project and the only ones I have left to draw and cut are WXY and Z.”
CP9, Carrier Pigeon, Issue 9, costs $25. Besides Maude White’s artwork there is much of interest, including linocut monsters by Bill Fick and a letterpress cover by Richard Kegler. I love Carol Fabricatore‘s illustrations for Ryan Scamehorn’s ‘Honor Among Thieves’ and the stunning portfolio of Alex Zwarenstein‘s figurative oil paintings. See more at www.carrierpigeonmag.com. As I’ve said before, $25 may be expensive for a magazine, but it is cheap for a work of art. My copy is signed and numbered #95 of 1000, and it smells like fresh ink. I once bought an 1894 copy of The Yellow Book, the London-based magazine art directed by Aubrey Beardsley for $20. Today that issue is on Amazon for $100. I believe Carrier Pigeon will prove as influential as The Yellow Book was in its day. I also expect the limited edition issues of Carrier Pigeon will similarly increase in value. As they say on Wall Street, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”
Visit www.bravebirdpaperart.com to see more of Maude White’s work. You can purchase paper cuts or commission art. She also does felt jewelry. I asked Maude if she ever considered using a laser cutter. She told me she prefers a sharp X-acto knife, “It may sound weird, but I love to cut, ” she said, “I just enjoy the process.” She also shared one trade secret of her technique. She uses a silver colored pencil to sketch on the black paper before she begins cutting.