Ripping paper, in the zone

Staff Writer

Photo courtesy Michael Coffee
Ivy King creates complex mixed-media pieces, using prints, torn paper and paint. Raised in Pagosa, a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and once an actress in Los Angeles, King moved back home and continued her work as a visual artist. She is seen here with a self-portrait and “Karl’s Donkey Tumor” (right) at The Art of It All, at SHY RABBIT Contemporary Arts.

“I do not call myself subject to much at all.” — Hawkeye, “Last of the Mohicans.”

Ivy King is the type of person books are written about, and if teenage girls were to read an Ivy King biography, they’d try to fashion their life after her.

In her childhood years, she was raised mostly here in Pagosa Springs, with access to fun outdoor activities, such as snowboarding. There was a constant artistic expression during her childhood, though,  with artist friends of her parents hanging around and encouraging her to be creative and disciplined in her work. Then, after high school, she was accepted to the American Academy of Performing Arts, then in Pasadena, Calif.

“That was fun and exciting. I graduated in ninety-nine, and then was thrown into the fishbowl of Hollywood,” King says.

She was a working actress in Los Angeles for eight years, and during this time, while working and going to auditions, she also attended the Groundlings Improv Theater and School. Instead of being in the creative environment where she grew up, in LA she was in the acting world and with the entertainment industry crowd.

“It’s a self-absorbed, strange community. It’s all about you, and you are driven to make yourself successful,” King says, adding, “Being in LA, a lot of my creative instincts were muffled.”

So, after eight years, she left.

She came back to Pagosa Springs.

“When I got out of there, it was time to blossom again. Now, I’m sort of free and able to really focus on doing art. Focus on ripping paper,” King says.

Ripping paper plays a central role in both King’s art and in her being.

“It’s a layered process,” King explains about the mixed media collages she creates. For “Self-Portrait,” the process started out with a print of a face. King uses a technique she learned in Michael Coffee’s Printmaking Without a Press class. “Self-Portrait” is currently showing in the nationally-juried exhibition ART of it ALL, at SHY RABBIT Contemporary Arts.

The first layer, King says, is the print. With that print in hand, King then makes a couple of “ghost prints” of the same image. There are four to five print images available by the end of the process.

“And then what I do, and usually on canvas, is I create whatever is hitting me at the moment — whatever I want to do,” King says.

At that point, she starts another collage on a canvas with other types of paper that she has found  — interesting for either their color or texture, or simply for how they strike her. She creates another face after that layer, then takes the prints and the collage face she produced, and begins an extensive layering process.

“It creates a 3-D effect,” King says.

It’s not planned, it’s not structured and, for her, it’s not something stemming from a concrete idea of what the final work will be.

“The art comes from the motion, from ripping paper and the shapes that I see. It’s not, ‘Oh, I’m going to do this collage of a darling dog and a bird,’” King says.

And it is up to King to make sure she is in motion.

“I was taught that if you’re not creating, you’re just wasting space. So I try to make sure that I work at least an hour every day. I try to rip paper every day,” King says.

King has been working in the medium of collage since she was 9 years old. Growing up, artists were often around the household, and Doug Pederson and Kelsey Hauck were two acknowledged masters whom she knew, whose art she admired, and whose influences she absorbed. Hauck, an internationally-recognized artist, though, was a mentor for King.

“I watched her, and what she did inspired me as a child,” King said.

She studied Hauck’s techniques, and she learned from both how Hauck worked and how she perceived the world. It was because of Hauck that King began to collect paper.

“She (Hauck) taught me to look at my surroundings and find paper everywhere you are,” King says.

Paper on the desk, paper on the ground, paper anywhere that hits King in a certain way, evokes a feeling, sticks out in some way. King picks it up.

Since the age of 9, King has been picking up paper, ripping it up and putting it back together. Her father would take photos of models he used in his paintings. When his eyes were elsewhere, King would steal those photos and cut them up. This, King says, helped her learn about the shapes of and in faces,  factors that continue to be a main interest when she creates her pieces.

During King’s childhood, watching the techniques and the work of Hauck, she was also encouraged in her creative explorations in her high school art class, taught by Charla Ellis (who also has a piece in The ART of it ALL exhibit).

“Charla pretty much gave me free rein. She encouraged me to incorporate every medium and form — collage, sculptures, which were a lot of nudes, and what not,” King says.

Though mixed media is where King does the bulk of her work, she still paints, mostly using acrylics, and does some sculpture.

“I prefer to rip paper. When I start ripping paper, that’s the only time my brain can focus. That’s when I get into the zone,” King says.

King’s mixed media pieces, “Self-Portrait” and “Karl’s Donkey Tumor” can be seen in the nationally-juried The ART of it ALL exhibit from now until Jan. 13.

SHY RABBIT is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at no charge. Visitors are welcome to tour the venue at their leisure. SHY RABBIT is located at 333 Bastille Drive, two blocks north of U.S. 160, off North Pagosa Boulevard.

This story was posted on January 10, 2013.