Paper worlds

Beatrice Coron wearing one of her cutpaper creations in Central Park Beatrice Coron wearing one of her cutpaper creations in Central Park

Artist Béatrice Coron at Dayton Art Institute

By Joyell Nevins

Photo: Artist Béatrice Coron will appear at the Dayton Art Institute on Oct. 29; photo: Etienne Frossard

Who said there is an age limit to starting an artistic career? At 40-years-old, the French-born Béatrice Coron decided she wanted to be a full-time artist.

Almost 20 years later, she is still making a living with her art. And Daytonians have the opportunity to meet her and view her unique way of creating at “Beatrice Coron: Cut Stories” Thursday, Oct. 29, part of the Fifth Third Bank Arts Night Out series at the Dayton Art Institute with additional support from Ohio Magazine.

Coron doesn’t draw. She doesn’t paint. She cuts.

“I cut stories,” Coron explained in a TED talk she gave wearing one of her designs cut from Tyvek (the same talk that put her on DAI’s radar). “My process is very straightforward: I take a piece of paper, I visualize my story, sometimes I sketch, sometimes I don’t, and, as my image is already inside the paper, I just have to remove what’s not from that story.”

Coron describes her journey to paper cutting as a “spiral,” instead of a straight line. Although she had dreamed of being an artist as a teenager, she didn’t have the resolve just yet.

“I was also a rebel, and I left everything and went for a long series of odd jobs,” Coron says.

Over the next two decades, she worked as a shepherdess, truck driver, factory worker and tour guide. She lived in Mexico, Egypt and Taiwan, and also served as a guide to China, Tibet and Central Asia. When she hit 40, Coron decided, “It’s time to start as an artist.”

Paper cutting emerged as her technique of choice. Coron originally wanted to do illustrations and recalled seeing that technique in her travels in Mexico and China.

“I thought, ‘OK, I will start with paper cutting,’” Coron recalls. “It’s cheap, it’s light and you can use it in a lot of different ways.”

The more she developed her craft and worked with sketching and constructing vectors and sharing narratives, the more she saw the promise of her work.

“[My art] is a way of working out the connections you have in your mind with everything you learn in this world, combining your self-analyses with dreams and reactions,” Coron says. “It’s a revelation to the world.”

Making a living

Coron may be small in stature, but she is strong in might. She heard of calls for artists for public art, for people looking for illustrations. She pushed through eight years of rejection before getting her first gig.

Now her art, cut in paper and Tyvek and different types of metal, can be seen in public places all over the world: a transit station in Los Angeles, a museum library in New York, a bell tower in Arizona, a stainless steel fence in Paris.

“I didn’t give up because I didn’t want to do anything else,” she laughs. “It was probably my anger, too—[that attitude of] ‘I’ll show them.’”

Her current projects are a fence for a swimming pool in Pennsylvania, a privately commissioned piece for a friend in San Francisco and a special moving paper sculpture for the Fêtes des Lumières (Festival of Lights) in Lyon, France.

For the Festival of Lights, which is in her hometown, Coron is designing her own tribute to film brothers and Lyon natives Auguste and Louis Lumière, who invented the cinematographe camera in the late 1800s. Coron is making paper cut into a cylinder that turns and lights up from behind. As people walk by, life-size figures are projected on the wall beside them.

“Lyon is making its own movies,” she says.

Coron loves that she now has a job that’s incorporated into her life.

“It’s not something that after eight hours, you say, ‘bye bye,’” she says.

Her studio is a “very quiet, very serene” place in New York City, close to where she lives with her American husband of almost 30 years (although they met in the Philippines).

At the DAI, Coron will talk about her work, show a presentation with various images of her designs and display her artists books. Coron describes the paper book sculptures as “little theatres for ideas or stories or poems.”

“Béatrice Coron: Cut Stories” will take place at at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29 at the Dayton Art Institute, 456 Belmonte Park N. in Dayton. The DAI’s Leo Bistro will be open for dinner Oct. 29, offering a special menu for the show. Advance reservations are required: call 937.512.0146 for reservations. Tickets for Coron’s talk are $30 for adults and $26 for seniors, and can be purchased by calling 937.223.4ART (4278) or at the museum’s Guest Services Desk. For more information, please visit daytonartinstitute.org or beatricecoron.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Joyell Nevins at JoyellNevins@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at swbgblog.wordpress.com or reach her at joyellnevins@daytoncitypaper.com

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