Artist Caroline Garrett Hardy to display acclaimed paper kimonos at Hunt Gallery

January 6, 2022

A paper kimono crafted by artist Caroline Garrett Hardy.

Williamsburg-based visual artist Caroline Garrett Hardy will exhibit a new collection of acclaimed paper kimonos at Mary Baldwin’s Hunt Gallery from January 17 through March 4. 

The bold and colorful sculptural collages of Off the Streets: From Rubbings to Kimonos draw inspiration from two sources. The first was a 2012 trip to Japan and an exhibition of woodblock prints by Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige. 

The experiences “rekindled a deep admiration of the Japanese artistic [aesthetic],” said Hardy, whose work is included in prestigious collections such as The Vatican Museum in Rome, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum in New York. The former college art professor felt drawn to its “flair for unexpected combinations of patterns,” particularly as showcased in “Hiroshige’s masterful botanical and landscape compositions.”

A paper kimono crafted by artist Caroline Garrett Hardy.

Hardy explored her renewed fascination by using textural rubbings she’d taken from everyday objects in cities around the world as source materials for lifesize paper kimonos. The former included everything from manhole lids in San Sebastion, Spain, to Vatican City tombstones, to municipal plaques from Mexico City. 

“The rubbings are reminders of the practical and nearly invisible efforts of unknown workers,” said Hardy, “while often eulogizing the efforts of those considered memorable.” 

She combines the rubbings with found materials like bar napkins or tourist brochures via an intricate series of cuts, rips, slices, tears, folds, stitching, and stapling. The process is guided by the principle of mottainai, “a Japanese term for ‘wasting not’ that combines humility, respect, and gratitude for one’s resources,” said Hardy.

The approach, she added, “enables me to juxtapose the elegance of authentic Japanese ‘rice’ papers with the humble shreds of everyday discards.” The kimonos look wearable, “but are suitable only to be hung on a wall or placed on an armature.”

The result is a delicate but vibrantly colorful visual treat. Meanwhile, Hardy’s careful interweaving of rubbings and multitudinous paper types can be read like a text: Selections offer subtle hints of meaning that suggest larger hidden narratives. 

Hardy says that’s no accident. 

“I create to engage the audience in a dialogue of beauty and ideas,” she said. “I want to shine a light on things of wonder, on things of curious effect, on the surprising relationships that bind us to humanity.” 

Clockwise from left: An elegant paper kimono; Hardy taking a rubbing from a utility cover in Tokyo; a glimpse inside Hardy's studio.

HUNT GALLERY RECEPTION UPDATE: The artist reception with Caroline Garrett Hardy has been rescheduled for 4:30-6 p.m on March 4. The public is invited to attend (see below for pandemic-related procedures).  

Mary Baldwin’s Hunt Gallery is dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary work in all media by regionally and nationally recognized artists. The gallery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday throughout the academic year. Click HERE to learn more about the 2021–22 schedule of events.

“I create to engage the audience in a dialogue of beauty and ideas. I want to shine a light on things of wonder, on things of curious effect, on the surprising relationships that bind us to humanity.”
Caroline Garrett Hardy

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All visitors to MBU campuses aged 12 and older must show proof of receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to attend indoor events. All visitors age 18 and older must also show a valid photo ID. Visitors who cannot display proof of vaccination may alternatively provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the event. This may be a rapid test or a PCR and must be validated by a healthcare provider or testing center.