When Martha Orlet ’15 transferred to Grinnell in 2013, she had no idea that three semesters later she would have two solo art shows — one at the Smith Gallery and one in Quincy, Illinois. Her upcoming Smith Gallery show, “Paper Curtains,” is scheduled to open on Monday, May 4, as a culmination of her Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) with Lee Running, Art.
During her first semester at Grinnell, Orlet took Running’s sculpture class. Throughout the course of the class, Orlet enjoyed working with paper and Running suggested the idea of a MAP.
“She was like, ‘You can do a MAP with me of paper curtains, but right now you have to make a sculpture, not a curtain,’” Orlet said. “And I was like, ‘Okay, fine, but I’m also going to keep that in mind and do a MAP with you later.’”
During her semester abroad in London, Orlet studied the works of William Morris, a wallpaper artist, and was inspired to finally take on the MAP with Running this semester. Abby Lowe ’15 and Becky Garner ’15 are also in the same MAP as Orlet because of their shared interests in cutting materials and detail-oriented work. As the three students were able to work on independent projects within the MAP, Orlet put her focus on paper curtains.
“When I came to campus this semester, I got supplies through Lee and I did a lot of research on what kind of paper curtains I wanted to make and what kind of materials,” Orlet said. “I decided I didn’t want to make them myself because I wanted to explore my form and shape.”
In light of recently discovering Tyvek paper, Orlet has figured out ways to play with the material, which is reminiscent of FedEx envelopes. The three paper curtains in the upcoming show were all made with Tyvek paper.
“It cuts really easily but it doesn’t tear really easily and all three curtains were made with that kind of paper,” Orlet said.
Orlet hopes that people will be able to interact with her curtains in the Smith show.
“I’m hoping that the paper curtain is so big that it kind of creates a pathway, that it blocks off sections of the gallery so that you really have to go a certain way and that you are enveloped by the paper curtain in some ways,” Orlet said. “I kind of like the idea of making the paper curtains more interactive.”