Béatrice Coron Sculpts Stories with Paper and Passion

by Sarah Block, Library Communications

Artist Béatrice Coron discussed her work at University of Miami Libraries Special Collections. The pictured fold-out design will be permanently housed in the Artists' Book Collection.
Artist Béatrice Coron discussed her work at University of Miami Libraries Special Collections. The pictured fold-out design will be permanently housed in the Artists’ Book Collection.

Artist Béatrice Coron, whose cut-paper silhouettes are featured nationally in major museums and airports, inside subway trains, and even on the fashion catwalk, discussed her work at University of Miami Libraries Special Collections, where some of her celebrated literary collaborations are housed.

Coron, who gave a TED Talk in 2011 about creativity, laughingly admitted at the March 11 event, “Cross Cutting Collaborations,” that she was first attracted to the ancient art of paper-cutting thirty years ago because “paper is cheap, and paint is messy.”

She uses an X-Acto knife to cut designs on paper or Tyvek, a process she describes as drawing with the mind of a sculptor. “I remove pieces for people to see what I see,” she said. Her vision emerges when the design is placed on a contrasting background.

Several of Coron’s whimsical landscapes were on display at Special Collections during the event. Special Collections head Cristina Favretto compares the experience of viewing Coron’s work to the Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window, featuring an immobilized Jimmy Stewart who spends days with his head on a pillow staring into other people’s apartments, slowly gaining clues about their lives. “You see all sorts of interesting stories,” she said. “And one by one, little by little, you begin figuring those stories out.”

Béatrice Coron (left), Special Collections Head Cristina Favretto (center), and Manuscripts Librarian Beatrice Skokan (right).

Coron, a native of France, shared with the Special Collections audience that her own life is full of unique stories. She has drifted around the world to live in places like Egypt, China, and Mexico, where she experienced life through a series of odd jobs. She worked as a shepherdess, factory worker, cleaning lady, and tour guide before deciding at age forty to reinvent herself as an artist.

A recurring image among Coron’s landscapes is that of a mermaid, which she explained serves as a metaphor about identity and transformation. “We never know where we are going to land,” Coron said. “And we don’t know whether we will be equipped for that land.”

Coron explained that each project takes months of preparation, reading dictionaries and philosophy books, watching movies, and observing the work of other artists. She revealed that one of her preferred challenges is collaborating with poets and artists for projects such as artists’ books, in which her silhouettes engage with other mediums.

At the event, Coron presented a recent collaboration with poet Tiffany Osedra Miller and painter Laura James, a colorful fold-out book (one of six created), that will join other works preserved in the Artists’ Book Collection at Special Collections. The acquisition provides a unique opportunity to access Coron’s work—a customized viewing experience. “When you come to Special Collections, you can take your time holding rare materials, and turning their pages,” Favretto said. “These materials are meant to be experienced up close.”

“All Around Town” designed from cut-paper by artist Béatrice Coron. The print is displayed throughout the New York City subway system.