Constructed almost entirely of white paper, Kirsten Hassenfeld’s diaphanous sculptures combine tropes of luxury—pearls, diamonds, chandeliers—with crystalline structures and Victorian-era craft. The results are baroque combinations that swoon not just with opulence, but with the laboriousness of their facture. From the tiny rolls of paper that form beads, intricate flowers, fans, and silhouettes to the fastidiously scalloped edges and cutouts of miniature trees, a slavish attention to detail is immediately evident. In contrast with the large scale of the structures themselves and their clean, geometric lines, these alternately dense and delicate forms create a dramatic yet subtle play of light.
With the exception of a work displayed in the gallery window, all of the sculptures contain light fixtures that can be easily accessed, making them as functional as they are precious—something Hassenfeld’s choice of material seems paradoxically to highlight. Maybe that’s why the artist has described her curious constructions as both “princess fantasies” and “objects of virtue.” Whatever you call them, they’re definitely extravaganzas of the handmade that light up the room.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 21, 2004