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Art People: Taiga Ermansons | tissue artist

  • Taiga Ermansons in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Taiga Ermansons in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Taiga Ermansons with one of her tissue works in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Taiga Ermansons with one of her tissue works in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Taiga Ermansons is reflected in the frame of one of her works hanging at her Arts & Industry Building studio in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Taiga Ermansons is reflected in the frame of one of her works hanging at her Arts & Industry Building studio in Florence.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Detail of one of the works in tissue by Taiga Ermansons.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Detail of one of the works in tissue by Taiga Ermansons.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • A piece by Taiga Ermansons in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    A piece by Taiga Ermansons in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Taiga Ermansons with one of her tissue works in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Taiga Ermansons with one of her tissue works in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Taiga Ermansons with one of her works in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Taiga Ermansons with one of her works in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Taiga Ermansons with one of her works in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Taiga Ermansons with one of her works in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Taiga Ermansons in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Taiga Ermansons with one of her tissue works in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Taiga Ermansons is reflected in the frame of one of her works hanging at her Arts & Industry Building studio in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Detail of one of the works in tissue by Taiga Ermansons.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A piece by Taiga Ermansons in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Taiga Ermansons with one of her tissue works in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Taiga Ermansons with one of her works in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Taiga Ermansons with one of her works in her studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

Last Wednesday afternoon, while installing her exhibit in a gallery at Historic Northampton, Taiga Ermansons was wondering whether the lights would wash out the contrasts in her work.

“I’ll do the best I can,” she said. “I’m not really that worried.”

Such are the challenges of creating art out of white Kleenex.

Ermansons’ exhibit, titled “Weather,” is a series of images she created by placing pieces of tissue outside on her terrace, gently securing them with small stones, and then stepping back while the elements — sun, wind, rain, snow — made their mark. Some she left out for minutes, others for weeks.

From a distance, the pieces, laid flat, side by side, look like what they are — tissues. Up close, each has its own patterns, shapes and textures. There are lines and ridges etched by sheets of rain, puckers created by snow, a corner turned by a gust of wind.

“They are imprints of a specific moment,” says Ermansons, who likens them to “trace fossils.”

In tiny, precise letters, in pen and in a light hand, she has inscribed the particulars on each one, like so:

MARCH 31 2013 EASTER

EARLY EVENING RAIN

NORTHAMPTON MA

None are in shreds. Kleenex, she has found, is more resilient and durable than its delicate, fragile appearance suggests. Ermansons isn’t sure exactly what accounts for that. She’s had several talks with the folks at Kimberly-Clark who have said there is indeed wood pulp in there, plus some kind of strengthening agent, but beyond that, they’re not saying.

Ermansons, 62, studied at the New School and the School of Visual Arts, both in New York. She has always liked working with basic materials, like scrap wood, wire and paper, she says: “I don’t like things to be too precious.” In that context, it wasn’t an artistic stretch when she considered Kleenex a few years back, and asked herself, “ ‘Why don’t I use this?’ It was just a natural progression.”

She knows her choice of material for the “Weather” series is unusual, perhaps to the point of off-putting to some. “Probably one in 10 people feel some resonance with the work,” she said. She has no harsh words for those who don’t: “If no one feels a connection, then I feel the work hasn’t yet reached the level it needs to.”

In her studio in Florence is a very different type of work, a painting titled “Green.” To do it, Ermansons mixed a color to her liking, applied it to a large canvas, and spent 20-some hours drawing an intricate pattern of faint, white lines on the canvas with a gel ink pen. The design is so subtle that it appears to be part of the canvas, not added to it.

She has sold a number of paintings like this one, Ermansons said, to people who seem drawn to their quiet serenity. Sometimes she is asked, isn’t the process slow and painfully tedious? She tells them it’s not. “For me it’s natural, almost like breathing. It’s not work or a chore at all.”

— Suzanne Wilson

“Weather” is on view at Historic Northampton through Aug. 30. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays noon to 5 p.m. Opening reception, Aug. 9, 5 to 8 p.m.

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