Treasures from the Vault: Andrea Peterson

Sachi Yanari-Rizzo, Curator of Prints & Drawings

Andrea Peterson’s work is intimately connected with nature on multiple levels: through her subject matter, her materials, and the life that she shares with her husband and ceramicist, Jon Hook.  Her work is represented in the Fort Wayne Museum of Art’s permanent collection by Spirit, a piece from a portfolio entitled Sand Steel Spirit created by thirty-two members of the Area Artist Association of Northwest Indiana.  Each work in the portfolio reflects on the region along Lake Michigan’s south shore, known for its sand dunes and steel mills. 

Andrea Peterson, American, b. 1966. Spirit, from the Sand Steel Spirit Portfolio. Woodcut, watermarks, and cyanotype on handmade paper, 2004. Gift of the Area Artists Association. Photo by FWMoA.

Spirit provides a glimpse of flowers—perhaps Queen Anne’s lace, a common roadside plant in Indiana— done in cyanotype, an early photographic process that is easily identified by its dark blue color.  The support is made up of handmade paper in blue and white.  The blue peeks through along the edges of the work and a hint of blue color also filters through where the watermark has thinned the white paper.  Watermarks are made during the production of the paper and are seen more clearly when held up to the light.  They are typically the paper maker’s name or an identifying graphic image located near the edge of the paper.  Instead, Peterson’s calligraphic watermark moves across the page and becomes an integral part of the work.  She prints further curving marks in woodcut.  The artist commented in a recent email, “Spirit is a piece that reflects the language around us that is bound into the environment—the biorhythms that occur around us—the energy that is [constantly] created by the flora and fauna.”

Peterson creates artists books, prints, and paper art in which she draws with paper pulp.  She makes her own paper in their studio called Hook Paper Pottery.  Historically, paper was made from plant fibers.  In Europe, linen and cotton rags from recycled clothing were used.  The paper we usually encounter today, however, is derived from wood.  In papermaking, the plant material is cooked, beaten, and macerated into a pulp, causing the fibers to separate.  Then the pulp is suspended in water.  A framed screen is used to form a sheet, and when the screen is dipped horizontally into the pulp mixture and lifted straight up, the water drains off and a thin layer of matted, intertwined fibers remains on the screen.  The newly formed sheet is taken off of the screen to dry, often called couching. 

Peterson’s art is made up of Indiana’s landscape in both content and material.  The fibers for her paper are by-products of the local agricultural industry or plants she harvests from her garden.   The sheets are for her own work and also for sale.  Last year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art added samples of her handmade paper to its permanent collection.  Her handmade paper is made from Indiana corn stalk and stems, orange daylily leaves, hay, wheat straw, and late summer hay fever sufferer’s favorite—ragweed.   Farmer denim is made from old worn jeans that neighbors have brought to her to re-use.  Peterson even produces a line of paper named Indiana sisal, made from baling twine.

Over twenty years ago, Peterson and Hook left Chicago for 10 acres of land in La Porte, Indiana.  Their home includes Peterson’s studio and one for Hook, who creates functional vessels and sculpture out of clay.  He also has a small ceramic piece in the Sand Steel Spirit portfolio.  Ash from wood to heat their studios is used for Hook’s glazes and for cooking Peterson’s plant fibers.  An otherwise discarded material finds new life in a vase or a piece of paper.  In fact, Hook has received grants to develop his method of fueling his kiln.  He begins with a wood fire then switches to a mix of water and used fryer oil from local restaurants.  A more recent addition to their homestead is Turkey Foot Farm, run by their sons.  The farm provides the household with 80% of its food as well as produce to local restaurants.  The couple’s love of the natural environment is evident not only in their art, but in their sustainable (and regenerative) approach to everyday living. 

Come see works on paper in the FWMoA Print & Drawing Study Center Tuesday-Friday, 11:00am-3:00pm, or by appointment.

You can learn more about Hook Paper and Pottery in the following videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-P_Gc2ApzU and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cs8oKRIHhcc

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