“Life in Balance”

Newest Exhibition Highlights Work of Leading Papercut Artist

In her first exhibition on the Eastern Seaboard, papercut artist Nikki McClure brings her vision of the world to Mystic Seaport with “Life in Balance: The Art of Nikki McClure,” a collection of original pieces that is now open in the museum’s C.D. Mallory Building. Considered one of the leading papercut artists in the world, McClure’s specialty is chronicling the details of everyday life.

The exhibition consists of 36 original papercuts by the Washington state artist, representing a cross section of her "Repeat," 2015. Courtesy Nikki McClurework spanning the last 20 years. McClure’s art is made by cutting a single black piece of paper with an X-ACTO knife. The papercuts represent her singular vision of life at the edge of Puget Sound, and feature the themes of water, nature, family, and respect for the land. Many of the works will be familiar to readers of McClure’s children’s books, whose striking black-and-white illustrations have built a national audience for her art.

“Life in Balance” will be the public’s first opportunity to see the work used to create “Away,” the 59-foot long mural on display in the lobby of the Museum’s Thompson Exhibition Building. The decision to pursue the new exhibition was based in part on the popular reception of the mural at the building’s opening in September 2016.

“Her art is infinitely relatable. Everybody has picked up a knife or scissors and cut paper and each one of us can relate to the experience of trying to make art by cutting paper, even if it is remembering as a child how you cut out a snowflake,” said Nicholas Bell, senior vice president for curatorial affairs at Mystic Seaport. “What really impresses people is just how intricate and nuanced these scenes are in spite of how simple that technique is. She can create depth and give the viewer a sense of an intricate and complex world through a single sheet of paper without ever adding anything to it.”

"Lunch," 2013. Courtesy of Nikki McClureMcClure has built a large following through her many books, note cards, and popular annual calendar. The exhibition provides a chance to see her work firsthand. The experience of seeing the original provides a sense of the relationship between the originals and the published work and shows just how intricate and detailed her art is. Included in the exhibition will be supporting materials and video that illustrate her artistic process and how she creates her art. On display will be some sketches of the mural “Away” in development so visitors can see how the idea evolved.

The exhibition expresses a recurring theme of life on the water that one finds throughout McClure’s work.

“McClure has the ability to speak to the mission of this museum, but she does it in such a way that is unexpected for our audience. She approaches the connection to the sea and water in a way that comes from a different direction from what we often see at Mystic Seaport,” said Bell. “We were looking for that marriage of a new look, a new perspective with something that is also timeless, and I think she does that perfectly.”

McClure will hold a public book signing in the lobby of the Thompson Building at Mystic Seaport from noon to 1 p.m., Saturday, February 18. The exhibition will be on display through December 31.