Rock, Paper, Scissors — Cheri McGee’s One-of-a-Kind Cut Paper Paintings

Colorful Spheres original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee.
Colorful Spheres, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

Most people, even if they flee at the mention of a fabric store, have met a quilter. Those unfamiliar with the craft marvel at the concept of taking yards of intact fabric, cutting it into smaller and disparate pieces, and reassembling those pieces into one planned, designed, and cohesive unit.

Blue Cat, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee
Blue Cat, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

But a quilt seems like a simple thing when placed side by side with the cut paper art of Cheri McGee, an Enterprise, OR, artist whose palette consists of thousands of snipped, scissored, and punched out pieces of paper — some of them smaller than a tick. Practiced throughout the world, paper art can be as basic as a silhouette, those portraits in profile that we associate with the Victorian era, or insanely complicated — as  is the more intricate traditional work from China, Indonesia, Germany (Scherenschnitte), and the Philippines.

McGee does a little of everything, embracing a style that ranges from a timelessly nostalgic folk art village scene to a sinuously flowing, almost curvaceous abstract mixed with realism. And then there are the mosaic works, consisting of itsy bitsy (think back to that tick, in company with sunflower seeds and some orange pips ) squares and circles and triangles and diamonds meticulously arranged to create a paper version of something you’d expect to find in a Turkish marketplace.

African Dancers, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee.
African Dancers, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

“Painting with oils may be easier,” the artist comments, explaining how, in the process of cutting and layering card stock into a cohesive image, weeks fly by. But it is this very detail and intricacy, in addition to the uniqueness of the medium itself, that is the attraction.

“I have been working in paper for 30 years,” McGee says. “It began as both an experiment and a need for wall art when the phrase, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ kept echoing through my head.” Faced with a new home of blank, white walls, McGee’s eyes turned to her young daughter’s supply of construction paper, her hands picked up a pair of scissors, and a passion was born.

City Scene, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee
City Scene, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

In short order, one pair of scissors grew into more than 25, and the cache of paper multiplied to, well, the equivalent of a quilter’s stash, as McGee kept an eye out, everywhere she traveled, for unique, unusual, textured, exotic, patterned, and colored stock. A spare room in her home functions as her studio, where creativity reigns and portable desk fans, even on hot days, do not.

Every finished artwork is unique, and while McGee may work on multiple projects simultaneously, there are no (no pun intended) short cuts. While in the early days she pre-cut and stored in drawers images and shapes as a means of speeding up future artworks, McGee found that she never used them, preferring, instead, to custom cut exactly what was needed precisely when the moment called for it.

It’s a build-as-you-go process, and the artwork itself makes its own demands. But when it comes to subject matter, anything goes, depending up McGee’s mood and inspiration, both of which are influenced by her interests, a childhood background in traveling as the daughter of a military family , and marriage to another artist, sculptor and flute carver Roger McGee.

“Being a self-taught artist, I find inspiration in that freedom, to create what strikes my fancy,” Cheri says. “I have recently begun a series of images and designs from the ’60s. I am also inspired by Moroccan designs, having lived there as a child when my father was serving in the Air Force.”

Lucky Charmz, original cut paper art by Cheri McGee
Lucky Charmz, original cut paper art by Cheri McGee

McGee’s works are in the homes of collectors from California to New York, as well as in Japan. She has shown and sold her work at the Kalispell Art Show and Auction in Montana, Spokane’s MONAC Western Show and Auction, and the Western Art Association Show and Auction in Ellensburg.

But the best place to find the artist herself is in that studio, scissors in one hand, paper in the other, as eyes, soul, and psyche focus on creating a work of art that has no twin of itself, anywhere, in the world.

Wenaha GalleryCheri McGee’s cut paper art is on display at Wenaha Gallery through Saturday, June 27, 2015.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

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