American artist Michael Velliquette creates intricately constructed paper sculptures in which he turns the ever-so-humble material – paper – into the most incredible, imaginable works of art. Velliquette has become known for his fortress-like constructions, tiered mandalas, and complex mechanical gears in his 20-year career, in which he has participated in over 150 exhibitions in museums and galleries across the US, Europe, and Asia, additionally to the publications he has created himself as well as the ones featuring his work. Besides his own personal work, Velliquette works as an educator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he teaches visual literacy, creative practice, and paper arts.
Turning fragility to durability by redefining our ideas and expectations of the humble material on its head
Velliquette seems to possess the magical power of a great paper artist, as he is one of the rare ones who manages to redefine our understanding of the material, with his constructed objects that convey the very opposite of what we are thought to think. His work possesses the very idea of strength and durability, characteristics rarely chosen to describe paper. The strong, rigid forms and impressive details demand observation and respect, like an ancient artifact needing closer inspection and admiration. The works are cut exclusively and assembled by hand, with some of the works taking up to 500 hours to complete.
Paper comes in endless forms. It can be used in multiple dimensions. It is easy to handle and manipulate, and it is available anywhere. It is inherently ephemeral, but given the right conditions, it can last for centuries
The creative’s most recent work takes a slightly different approach, as the series of paper cuts in which single sheets of paper is sliced and folded, Velliquette aims to emphasize the physics of light, by demonstrating the way a simple fold, lifted at a variety of angles from the surface, reveals a myriad of shadows, forms, and openings. This is an interesting contrast to his larger-scale constructions, which have a strong and rigid nature. Carved or build-up, they capitalize on paper’s strength, flexibility, and capacity to be easily molded. Working with simple means of basic scissors and an X-Acto knife, Velliquette says to prefer heavier weight papers and cover stocks in the 250-350 gsm range. “I became interested in how this simple material could encapsulate all my formal and conceptual interests. Paper comes in endless forms. It can be used in multiple dimensions. It is easy to handle and manipulate, and it is available anywhere. It is inherently ephemeral, but given the right conditions, it can last for centuries”, the artist writes about his decision to work with paper.
Below you can see some of our favorite works by the artist, but make sure to follow Velliquette’s on Instagram for future inspiration.