Intricate Paper Quilling at Philadelphia's Mütter Museum

Many of you will recognize the work of paper artist Lisa Nilsson, whose quilling has been featured widely online due to its stunning complexity, unusual subject matter, and use of Japanese mulberry paper and gilt edge strips from old books that she cuts by hand rather than relying on commercial quilling supplies.

Quilled Angelico - Lisa Nilsson

Lisa's remarkable Tissue Series depicting anatomical cross sections is the subject of an exhibition, Connective Tissue, at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia now through January 4, 2018. Lisa sent over several photos from the recent opening and declared the museum nothing short of amazing.

Connective Tissue Exhibit at Mütter Museum

If you haven't heard of the Mütter, it has a very unique focus. From the website: America's finest museum of medical history, the Mütter Museum displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a nineteenth-century "cabinet museum" setting. The goal of the Museum is to help visitors understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Connective Tissue Quilling Exhibit - Mütter Museum

I'm looking forward to visiting the Mütter soon, but meanwhile, thought it would be interesting for all of us to learn from Lisa what goes into coordinating a display of this size.

I'm curious how a museum exhibit comes to be, especially when the majority of a collection's pieces have been sold and are therefore scattered far and wide.

I was contacted by Emily Yates, the Museum Special Projects Manager, and put her in touch with my representative, Pavel Zoubok Gallery. Kris Nuzzi, the gallery's Associate Director, took care of all of the details… loan agreements, insurance, art handling (pick up from collectors and transport to the museum), and many more.  

The Mütter team, including Emily and Michael Keys, the Exhibit Designer, took care of the installation, the design and fabrication of acrylic mounts that both display and protect the work, the graphic design, and the text that accompanied the exhibition.  Each decision was run past me and Kris.

I had the pleasure of meeting the museum director, Robert Hicks, the day of the opening. I was delighted that all involved, including Pavel and Kris, the collectors who own "Midsagittal Female", Paulette Bernd and Steven Erde, who are anatomy professors at Columbia University, my husband Rich, and our dear friend Marty were able to attend the opening.

Midsagittal Female by Lisa Nilsson; Connective Tissue Exhibit at Mütter Museum  - Opening Attendees
Midsagittal Female and opening attendees, including Paulette Bernd 

I imagine it was quite exciting to see your work gathered in one space, and such a beautiful one at that!

At the time of the exhibition, I hadn't seen the work in about three years, nor the gallery space before the day of the opening. Emily and Michael sent some photos, but I resisted looking, wanting to have my first look at the show in person. In my mind the works are small and scarce, and this thinking was amplified by the passage of time, so I had a bit of trepidation leading up to the exhibit that the room could feel insufficiently "activated" by the art. Emily was meeting me in the space, but was finishing up something, so my first look was by myself. I walked into the center of the room and teared up. I found it so beautiful, so real and museum-y looking! As if the art was made for the room, and the room for the art. I was so very pleased that my social anxieties about the opening melted away and I was able to relax and fully enjoy myself that evening. A real highlight of my life. 

Quilled Male Pelvis by Lisa Nilsson
 Male Pelvis

The museum offered to make merchandise accompanying the exhibition available in their shop. Kris designed two lovely post cards that are selling well, and she and I are in the process of designing and printing a poster, soon to be available.

When a piece is sold, does your gallery representative alert the purchaser that they might be asked to lend it in the future for exhibitions?

I don't know if this is addressed specifically, although I imagine it is part of what the collector may expect or be pleasantly surprised by. I was delighted and grateful that all of the collectors were willing to loan their works for such a long period of time…about seven months.

Lisa Nilsson and Rich Remsberg
Lisa and her husband, Rich Remsberg, on opening night

I recall that there are more than twenty works in Tissue Series and that you built a silk-covered, wooden box frame for each piece. Is the group completed or do you plan to add to it?

I feel complete and satisfied with the works I made. They were made in two "batches"… one before I had established a relationship with Pavel Zoubok Gallery and a second after. The second group comprised a solo show at the gallery in 2013. I'm still fully engaged in exploring the decorative arts-inspired "Tapis Series".
Quilled Angelico (detail) by Lisa Nilsson
Angelico - detail

Lisa Nilsson is represented by Pavel Zoubok Gallery.

Opening night photo credit: Emily Yates, Special Assistant to The Museum Director and Michael Keys, Exhibit Designer

Ann Martin
Ann Martin

This is a short biography of the post author and you can replace it with your own biography.