Public Program

Reading Paper – A Sensory Experience

Visitors to the Menil Collection spend considerable time looking at and interpreting drawn, written, and printed marks on paper. We mentally untangle marks into meaning. But what about the paper on which marks appear? Just like we decipher—or read—the marks that appear on paper, we can also read the paper itself. Reading paper involves more than just eyesight. We also employ our sense of smell, hearing, touch, and occasionally, taste. By reading paper, its role and significance is better understood and our enjoyment enhanced. Come and experience paper—audience participation required!

About the speaker:

Margaret (Peggy) Holben Ellis, the 2023 Menil Drawing Institute Research Fellow, is the Eugene Thaw Professor Emerita of Paper Conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, where she has taught the conservation treatment of prints and drawings and technical connoisseurship for art historians for over 35 years. She has published and presented on artists ranging from Leonardo, Raphael, and Dürer to Samaras, Lichtenstein, and Dubuffet, with a focus on materials and techniques, including Day-Glo colors, Magic Markers, and Crayola crayons. Most recently she has begun to investigate the materials of Willem de Kooning for the Art Institute of Chicago. While at the Drawing Institute, she hopes to develop an easy-to-use protocol for describing the color of white paper in collaboration with curatorial and conservation staff. The system will have, as its foundation, colorimetric measurements of a range of white papers. Each instrumental color reading will then be “translated” into a Universal Color Language phrase and assigned a familiar color name. Her project will add to the Menil’s long history of refining the description of paper properties, begun by conservator Liz Lunning and continued by Jan Burandt.

Attending the program:

This program takes place in the Menil Drawing Institute, located at 1412 West Main Street. Additional information regarding accessibility and parking can be found here.

As always, Menil programs are free and open to all.