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Paper as a Luxury

"The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper and reimagines the world." - Malcolm Gladwell

This generative reimagining is exactly what Charlotte artist Elizabeth Palmisano does for her community through her art -- only this time she created the paper, too!

This work represents the transformative push brought on by adversity and the beauty that can come from humble, resourceful means.

Working Poor. What does that mean? It means your family makes too much money for government assistance i.e. food stamps, public housing, childcare vouchers, etc. but not enough to sustain you and your family. It means living one flat tire away from eviction.

For those living near or below the poverty line, everyday items, such as paper towels or tissues, are a luxury. These are consumable goods that can be replaced by free items such as fast food napkins, in an effort to save every penny and make it to payday.

Those who grew up living a life of affluence or even middle class comfort often think of poverty as hunger, homelessness, and/or inadequate housing, but rarely do they get a glimpse of what it is really like to live as an impoverished American. Each day holds unique challenges that require creative and often innovative solutions. Such as these two real world examples:

  • only taking right hand turns when the left turn signal is out on the car and a traffic ticket nor a repair can be afforded

  • knotting a child’s hair together as makeshift stitches when a gash on the head requires a trip to the ER, but the family cannot afford to pay for such services

This type of living requires ingenuity, resilience, and bravery. Three things our society reveres, yet remains blind to the details and the journeys to forced genius.

Palmisano acknowledged and celebrated the ingenuity of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area working poor by hosting community workshops, and documenting lived experiences via video and mixed media fiber art. The artwork upcycled everyday fibers such as paper towels, napkins, as well as scrap threads and transformed them into delicate, beautiful pieces of handmade paper. To support others who may be dealing with financial adversity, she accepted donations of paper products for Harvest Hope Food Bank during the exhibition.

This project was made in collaboration with Drew Baron and Crisis Assistance Ministry, and funded in part by ASC, and the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.


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