beautiful things: anna-wili highfield’s paper menagerie

anna-wili highfield, robin, 2010.

‘sculpture’ is a fragile sort of word; it defines such a breadth of artistic endeavors that it’s sort of more useful to use in the negative than the positive. anna-wili highfield‘s work is paper-based and so fragile-looking it seems almost more like textile art than sculpture. the pieces seem tennuously held together, their edges rough and flyaway.

anna-wili highfield, race horse, 2010.

despite the obvious presence of structure beneath the delicate surfaces, they appear almost organic, like a fluke composite of dried leaves, animal shapes occurring naturally in the frail detritus of human lives so pretty appropriate for this blog, really. plus. they’re very, very beautiful. don’t you think?

anna-wili highfield, horse in a timber box, 2010.

it’s probably not surprising, then, that i think her pegasus works are most successful. horses – particularly those of greek myth – are powerful, full of tail and rippling of muscle. very masculine, very strong. to cast them in torn papers and wire, then, is a curious breaking down and rebuilding of a classic symbol of virility into something that blurs lines between fierce and insubstantial – a state i, obviously, find eternally fascinating. plus, the movement really works to the advantage of these pieces.

anna-wili highfield, pegasus bust for hermes, 2011.

with the exception of a few of her particularly exquisite small birds, i find the bunched paper tendons and the torn-edge impression of passing wind or speed much more compelling than the scientific stillness of others in highfield’s menagerie.  it’s rare for me to be more interested in wild depictions than scientific ones, but here it works. or maybe i’ve just always been a bit romantic when it comes to flying horses.

yours in delicate solidarity,


2 Comments to “beautiful things: anna-wili highfield’s paper menagerie”

  1. Thank you for your very supportive comment on my scar. Reading in your comment that you have chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia makes your post here all the more poignant in terms of the beautiful fragility of these sculptures. Thank you for introducing me to an artist I had not come across. These are truly amazing and inspiring.

  2. you are very welcome – i’m glad you found something you like.

    i always find it pretty confronting to write about my cfs/fibro, but there’s something really important about saying it (writing it) out loud, i think. if nothing else, i love hearing other people talk about their experiences with illness/disability/pick your word (particularly other aesthetophiles!) and i think it’s interesting and valuable to engage in that, and to give yet more people the opportunity to read and talk about it.

    plus, it’s pretty awesome to meet somebody who’s got such a physical, tangible history and a fashion niche! it would be so easy for you to gloss over it, but you choose to talk instead. i think that’s quite great.

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