Rachael Direnna is an unusual artist working in an unusual media. Well, I guess paper mache isn’t that unusual, but the fact that she makes her own paper mache completely from scratch is.
“I make my own clay out of shredded papers (office paper,newspaper, etc) I like the idea of making something from nothing, starting from scratch kinda. I like the idea that I am recycling. But mostly I just love making stuff. Sometimes its weird stuff.”
Sometimes it’s creepy stuff, too, as evidenced by the photo at the top of this post.
Maybe it’s because of this connection with the paper that Direnna can make such striking tree spirits. Many people who make tree spirits end up sculpting female forms with rough skin and branches sticking out in odd places, or else perfectly normal trees with faces in their knotholes. Direnna is one of the few artists who finds a good balance between the two shapes, uniting human and tree in a way thats too distorted to be human, but too familiar to be entirely tree. Like many great works of the Impressionists, it looks like one thing when you casually glance over it, and something else when you look more closely.
Most of her pieces can be divided into three categories: trees, women, and animals. The women are strangely lifelike. Some of them make you think they’re photographs when you see the thumbnails, but then up close you see they are actually quite stylized. The animals, too, are strikingly realistic in their general shapes and poses, but up close are more abstract in their textures and details, like Impressionist paintings.
Direnna’s artist statement implies that her work isn’t painted at all, but uses colored paper for its finish. Sometimes she uses patterned paper to add to the impressionistic textures of a piece. In fact, Direnna is a brilliant example of an artist who works with her medium and is influenced by it, because most of her pieces could only be done in paper mache. It would be extremely difficult to accomplish these textures in polymer clay or any other sculpting material, and why would you want to, when paper mache does it so well?
You can see more of Direnna’s work on her Flickr account or her blog, and you can purchase your very own piece by visiting her Etsy shop.