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MICHAEL VELLIQUETTE


My approach to art making and to spiritual practice derive from a common root. My earliest art courses taught me that the maker’s approach to using form to access meaning resonated with my experience growing up in the Catholic church, where the formalism of the mass was meant to access a transcendent other.
 
I continue to view my work in the studio to be akin to spiritual contemplation: material investigation provides me with access to discoveries about the exterior world and insights into myself.  My work requires that I look more closely than ordinary sight requires and to perceive what might otherwise go unnoticed.
 
My evolving artwork parallels developments in my spiritual life. I have recently engaged in a course of study in Theravada Buddhism and in the early Vedic philosophy of Advaita, also known as Non-Dualism. The concept of “non-self” is central to both disciplines. This idea proposes that the innate sense of separation we perceive as “inside me” and “outside world” is imagined. Instead, the whole of reality is a field of consciousness in which perceptions, sensations, and thoughts arise and pass away from moment to moment. Advaita philosophy proposes the metaphor of ceaseless reflections upon a seamless surface.
 
For millennia, paper has been a receptive surface upon which we record our textual and pictorial experiences. The term “blank page” is often used as a metaphor to describe a state of endless possibility. My work in the paper arts over the past fifteen years has been motivated by these material and immaterial properties of paper. My sculptural paper constructions combine exuberant abundance with an inventive formalism. Subjects and themes throughout my work have depicted the search to understand the nature of the self.
 
My early paper pieces were image-based. Throughout a period spanning ten years and over two hundred works, I investigated paper-crafting traditions from around the world and integrated them with my own wholly unique techniques. Over time, my work has become less tied to pictorial schemas and less concerned with representation than with documentation of process. My approach has become more improvisational: instead of relying on drawn studies, I simply allow works to accrue cut-by-cut and piece-by-piece. This handcrafting process is slow — depending on scale, finished works can take up to five hundred hours to manifest. This results in the production of fewer individual works, but each piece invites a greater wealth of interpretations. They can be displayed both horizontally as sculpture in the round or vertically as bas-reliefs. I encourage their investigation from multiple perspectives, both visual and conceptual.
 
I see strong parallels between my approach to art-making and religious, conceptual, and process-based art practices where expansive patterning and ornamentation alludes to the infinite mystery of who we are. Like paper, we are impermanent. Yet deep reflection may reveal that behind the complex dimensional strata of our individual experiences resides a state of unified presence where we are much more than the sum of our parts.