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Black painted room, lit with blue LED lights, filled with brightly colored, sparkly flowers.

Paper Routes Celebrates Women Artists in Ohio

My life is properly cluttered with paper. I have stacks of it and some well-meaning plans for said stacks. I have pieces of paper sticking out of books, hiding in drawers, and clinging for life on my fridge, but I have never investigated my relationship to paper beyond a sense of “clutter guilt.” Walking through the Riffe Gallery’s newest exhibition, Paper Routes: Women to Watch 2020 - Ohio, I’m reminded (and forgive the pun) of the expression, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.” I’ll admit I have been paper-blind, but these artists have gifted me with new eyes. 

Many paper hands holding colorful books

The abundance and familiarity of paper that allowed me to overlook it as a medium is precisely one of the reasons it has been so important for women artists. Historically, women artists have been overlooked and driven to the margins of the art community. Access to media that is readily available, easily manipulated, and cost-efficient created space for them to make artwork without barriers.

The women in this exhibition pull out the very essence of paper by challenging our traditional sense of paper as a throwaway commodity. Carmen Romine created landscapes from receipts, Alice Pixley Young cut out powerlines from roofing paper, and Sarah Kabot created figurative stencils from newspapers. These works pull from history, the media, and wasteful cultures to inspire a second look at our conservation practices, our relationship to the printed word, and our “paperless” future.

While the exhibition is flooded with new prescience and meaning in a COVID-19 world, these works are not dark or hopeless. In fact, many spark overwhelming senses of joy and warm nostalgia. Sydney Joslin-Knapp created a cosmic cave, dark and dim as a cave should be, yet full of bright, shiny, sparkling flowers that pull us into the space and present us with an opportunity to reflect, breathe, and embrace both the light and dark within ourselves and the installation. Emily Moores’ “Let’s Celebrate” fills a glass wall in gallery, but its massive scale feels so inviting it’s impossible to walk by without feeling the urge to crawl inside and return to childhood. 

Bright orange, yellow, and red paper installation

I have had the opportunity to stand alone with these works in the gallery, to be properly humbled and inspired by them, and now to share my delight with you. No future is guaranteed, but Paper Routes moves us forward, with all the certainty of the human race itself, cradled in the womb of women artists. 

Paper Routes: Women to Watch 2020 – Ohio is presented at the Ohio Arts Council’s (OAC) Riffe Gallery in collaboration with the Ohio Advisory Group of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA). NMWA, located in Washington, D.C., is the world’s only museum solely dedicated to celebrating the creative accomplishments of women. With its collections, exhibitions, programs, and online content, NMWA champions women through the arts and advocates for equity. As the exclusive affiliate of the Women’s Museum in Ohio, the Ohio Advisory Group of NMWA extends the mission by showcasing women’s contributions to Ohio’s rich cultural landscape.

The exhibition was curated by Matt Distel, Emily Liebert, and Stephanie Rond. Featured artists include Kristine Elizabeth Donnelly, ¡Katie B Funk!, Sydney Joslin-Knapp, Sarah Kabot, Natalie Lanese, Charlotte McGraw, Emily Moores, Susan Li O’Connor, Alice Pixley Young, Sa’dia Rehman, Carmen Romine, Adrienne Slane, and Breanne Trammell.

Paper Routes is on view at the OAC’s Riffe Gallery through Oct. 17, 2020. While the gallery is temporarily not accepting in-person visitors, a virtual exhibition can be viewed online at All Riffe Gallery events are now virtual. Visit for more information about upcoming programming.


The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery showcases the work of Ohio's artists and the collections of the state's museums and galleries. The Riffe Gallery is located in the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts, 77 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43215.  

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The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on 
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Article by Aimee Wissman, 2020-21 OAC Riffe Gallery Marketing and Exhibitions Fellow
Featured Image: Sydney Joslin-Knapp, "Cosmic Cave (Going into The Unknown to find Everything We Thought We Knew)," 2020

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