All creators begin with a blank slate, and in the case of Santa Fe-based artist Kevin Box, he starts with a blank square. His large, structural works mimic the art of origami while using colorful, large sheets of metal.
A set of 18 large sculptures created by Box, his wife Jennifer, and a handful of other collaborators are on display in an exhibition called “Florigami in the Garden” at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden through Feb. 14.
When Box started making art, he didn’t intend to use origami as his medium.
“I began with a square piece of paper … about 20 years ago now,” he said. “I thought I’ll start with a square. My name is Box. Use it if you got it, right?”
Instead, he was thinking about something he calls “the architecture of the soul” as he tried — and sometimes failed — at developing techniques for translating his geometric designs onto metal.
When he first showed his work he couldn’t get away from the word origami.
“People kept saying ‘Oh that looks like origami,’ or ‘That reminds me of origami’ and I thought, I’ve never heard of this word,” he said. “It wasn’t something I had studied. I grew up in Oklahoma making paper airplanes like every other kid. I never called it origami.”
If you go
What: Outdoor sculpture exhibition Florigami in the Garden
When: Aug. 19-Feb. 14
Where: Fort Worth Botanic Garden
3220 Botanic Garden Blvd.
Fort Worth, Texas 76107
Admission: Included with admission to the garden. Free for members. $6-12 nonmembers, depending on age.
He didn’t make the connection himself until he unfolded some of his own work and saw the similarities between his art and a deconstructed piece of origami. And it wasn’t until he learned more about the story of “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” that he felt truly aligned with the practice.
The historical novel based on the story of Sadako Sasaki popularized the legend of 1,000 paper cranes in the United States. According to the legend, if a person folds 1,000 paper cranes, each of which represents one year of the bird’s life, their wish will come true.
The young Japanese girl was living in Hiroshima when the United States dropped an atom bomb on the city. She survived the attack, but was diagnosed with leukemia a few years later. She wished to be well again and folded paper cranes throughout her time in the hospital.
Box described grabbing an origami book that someone had given him and sitting down for hours as he attempted to figure it out.
“I guess I figured it out and I sort of went through this process and … I could see how I could cast this in the lost-wax process,” he said. “I could see how I could fabricate this using sheet metal.”
As he continued down this path, he grew his team and started collaborating with other artists, including Robert J. Lang.
Lang is a physicist by trade and has worked with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He uses his mastery of mathematics to come up with intricate designs that create complicated figures using a single sheet.
Their collaboration “Dear Family” is on display in the Botanic Garden, where visitors will be able to see not just the outline of the animals but details like antlers, ears and eyes.
Each of the sculptures in the exhibition took about one year to complete from design and drafting to fabrication.
CEO and president of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden and the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Patrick Newman, said that the show is the perfect way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the center’s Japanese garden.
“Origami is so much more than just paper and folds. There is a mental component to it and there is an emotional and spiritual component to it — and even a physical component as well,” he said. “And this garden is so much more than flowers and butterflies … so we like that parallel as well.”
For Newman, these sculptures are a symbol not just of the garden’s history but where it is going next. He encouraged people not to think of the exhibition as something you see once, but something that evolves and that you revisit as the seasons change.
“I don’t know if you know this, but it’s hot right now,” Newman joked. “There is cooler weather that is coming … and it will be fun to see how these pieces reflect and respond to the changing landscape.”
Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.