When Andreana Donahue moved to Las Vegas in 2003 after graduating with a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, she found that she missed seeing green. As a Midwestern transplant, the 29-year-old had grown up surrounded by flowers, trees, grass, water and, of course, ice. She didn’t realize how much a part of her life those pieces of nature were until she settled into the land of brown and gray. With her new show, she creates some of the nature of her childhood through her cut-paper sculptures. Getting Close to the Event Horizon, at the Winchester Cultural Center Gallery, explores items not naturally found in the desert.
“I like transforming the material that is otherwise pretty boring into something more exciting,” Donahue says. She’s referring to the medium she uses—paper—but the same could be said for the everyday-nature forms it takes in the show: a patch of grass, a wave, a cross-section of a glacier. Her work takes shape thanks to reams of paper and an X-ACTO knife (scissors lack precision), which she used to cut large sections at a time, turning what began as a simple stack of paper into a three-dimensional, textured figure reminiscent of a topographic map. It’s an intense process: The glacier she created for the show took about 40 hours to make and measures about 5 inches long by 4 inches tall.
“It’s a pretty tedious, repetitive process, but also meditative,” Donahue says. She adds that whatever medium she’s working in, she has always made it detail- and process-oriented.
“What I like about paper is that it’s kind of in between two-dimensional and three-dimensional,” Donahue says. “There’s a lot of variety in forms that you can make out of it because of its flexibility.”
Donahue also enjoys the unpredictability of paper when it comes to sculpture. That unpredictability meshes well with the title of the show. She says Getting Close to the Event Horizon is a reference to the surface of a black hole. “At a certain point, there is no way to control the force of its gravitational pull, beyond which there is no return,” Donahue says. She views the unpredictability of the black hole as a metaphor for nature and the way that people try to exert their own form of control, she says. “People have an illusion of controlling what happens in their life,” she says.
Donahue has recently returned to her studio, following a two-year stint as owner and curator of downtown’s Main Gallery (2007-2009). She’s been in Las Vegas for about eight years now, and while she still misses grass and water, Donahue enjoys being an artist in Las Vegas. “The art scene isn’t so established, so there’s a little more freedom here to do whatever you want,” she says. “I like that part of it. It’s the new frontier.”