Monday, December 12, 2011


It has been nearly a year since my last post on the paper sculpture work of Seattle artist Patty Grazini. Some of her current work is on display at Seattle's most outlier shop and gallery, Curtis Steiner, owned and managed by artist Curtis Steiner. Grazini's latest paper sculpture work might best be described as pulp fiction noir, except her characters are based upon true stories of villains, cons, and felons uncovered in the archives of the New York Times. Each of her nefarious outlaws are delightfully portrayed as animals or birds, and measure about 18 inches in height. They are handsomely dressed in 19th century costume, with exquisite detail given to every button, ruffle, pattern, pose and expression. A beautiful banner is displayed next to each figure, with a reproduction of the original newspaper's account of their criminal activity. As curious and mysterious as these jailbirds' exploits are, it is Grazini's imaginative portrayal of these characters which provide the most engaging narratives. She single-handidly delivers poetic justice for their sensational crimes.

Miss Ruggles who was charged with arson of her home in order to collect on insurance and finance her trousseau, jumps a rope on fire. 
Mary Largo, (a pigeon) who was convicted for being the brains of a New York city gang of begging imposters is sent of to the Reformatory.

Pretty Ada Turise, (a young goat) is a confirmed opium smoker at the young age of 16, and is dressed in the finest of marbled endpapers. 

I absolutely marvel at Grazini's skill and patience to physically manipulate paper into beautifully tailored costumes, tools and all of the trappings of outlaw culture. Her rich color palette and patterned papers are carefully chosen to give the illusion of old fabric. To fully appreciate, you must walk slowly around them each and discover all the many suprising details: the blood on the cook's meat cleaver; the top button left undone on the knife thrower's pants; the small patches on the shirt of the cat who painted birds to look like canaries, the suitcase made of book text which belonged to a former bookseller-turned-serial-polygamist; the pretty opium poppies growing at the feet of the young opium addict. It is all so very inspired. 
      I want to thank Curtis Steiner for graciously permitting me to take these photos and to share them here once again. He and his staff are very welcoming and I encourage you to pay a visit to his little cabinet of wonders if you are in or near Seattle. Meanwhile, you can view a short video of Patty Grazini speaking about all of her new work at the very bottom of this long post.

A drunk and jealous knife thrower, (a sewer rat) is convicted of killing his girlfriend in a knife-throwing incident after an attempt to reform her. Whoops!
A young woman (stork) was charged with trafficking orphan babies to paying clients.

An old man (cat) is arrested for selling fake canaries which he painted yellow. No telling what became of the poor painted birds.

A cook takes aim at her employer with a gun, only to miss.

Former bookseller Marthila Hart, (a crow) stole the hearts and life-savings of many men. She had at least 11 husbands, deluding them each into giving her money for false pretense shortly after marrying.

Religious spiritualist Olive Brown (portrayed as a black cat) and her husband, Philander Brown swindled an elderly man of nearly $3000 by convincing him they had a direct line to the spirit world and could communicate with his deceased wife. Found guilty, they were soon spirited away to prison.

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