August 30, 2012

Remembering the magic of Alice Wand

'Artist Group Show IV: A Magic Wand' opens atAdirondack Arts Association Gallery


---- — ESSEX — The late Alice Wand created magical realms with her handmade-paper artworks.

The Adirondacks Arts Association is presenting a special exhibition, “Artist Group Show IV: A Magic Wand,” featuring works by and inspired by Wand. An opening reception is from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, and a gallery chat with artists runs from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Born in 1951 in Decatur, Ill., Wand graduated with a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Wisconsin.

She worked at a youth hostel on Cape Cod the summer after she graduated.

“One of the travelers that came through the hostel was a professor who was in charge of the North Country Community College in Malone,” said environmental consultant/photographer Dennis Kalma, Wand’s husband. “He offered her a job teaching art.”

In Malone, Wand operated Moonstone Paper and Press until she relocated to Saranac Lake.

Kalma met Wand while vacationing in Florida. In 1990, they moved to 27 acres of old fields and woodlands in Willsboro.

There, she established Alice Wand Studio & Gallery.

“I was with her 28 years,” Kalma said.

In 1982, Wand studied the art of paper making at the University of California, Irvine. A year later, she transitioned from letter press to paper making.

“As soon as she could make money doing that, she switched over,” Kalma said. “Up until the late ‘90s, most of what she made was sold in interior design shops. She made decorative fans, saucers and wall hangings of various kinds. Later on, she started making more animal shapes out of the handmade paper. That became Paper Circus (paper sculptures). 

“Around the year 2000, she started making these landscape collages. The handmade paper is pasted down on a background and is colored or painted over. That’s basically what she did the last 10 years.”

Wand died on April 3, 2012, after a two-year struggle with ovarian cancer.

Fellow artist Susan Britain met her at the Willsboro Craft Fair.

“She was exhibiting her very whimsical paper creations,” said Britain, who lives in Willsboro. “Her paper designs of all kinds of animals, fantasy animals and real animals — I’ve never seen anyone that creative and whimsical in many a year. She also had some wonderful landscapes she had built up on her own paper. She would build up layers of her paper and created amazing landscapes, Adirondack landscapes.”

Wand’s humor was apparent in her work.

“And her love of nature,” Britain said. “She was really connected with nature, and she brought her own interpretation to that. She broke every rule that any artist ever learned and created gorgeous paintings and constructions about nature. She even made her own frames out of paper for her artwork and included them in her artwork.”

Wand inserted text and photographic elements in her compositions.

“In her last paintings, she began to write very cryptically about death,” Britain said. “One of the things I admired about Alice, she was constantly learning and constantly evolving, herself as well as her artwork, with seriousness and humor at the same time. She was always surprising. One of the things I wrote about her, she treads softly and left the most creative marks behind her.”

Wand was very quiet person.

“She kept to herself and worked constantly at her art,” Britain said. “Her husband is a photographer, and I think they influenced each other.”

Email Robin Caudell:

IF YOU GO ▶WHAT: "Artist Group Show IV: A Magic Wand," featuring works by and inspired by the late Alice Wand. ▶WHEN: Reception 5 to 8 p.m. Friday. Gallery talk with artists 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. ▶WHERE: Adirondack Art Association Gallery (Old Fire House), Main Street, Essex. ▶PHONE: 963-8309.