Holly Senn works undercover by day as a librarian at Pacific Lutheran University.
By night, Senn creates amazing artwork.
Senn is both an installation and sculpture artist. Her medium? Largely paper from old library books, with occasional splashes of cardboard and other materials. Senn's installations have filled spaces 16-feet tall, while many of her sculptures could fit in your hands. All of her works, big and small, involve rescued library books - books often scheduled for the recycling bin.
"My work is inspired by the life cycle of ideas," she says. "How ideas are generated, how they get dispersed, if they're forgotten, or if they're referenced or remembered again."
In Senn's installations book pages sometimes cover the wall. In the past she has created a canopy of book pages over an imaginary forest of cardboard trees, and even an entire tree from pages sculpted around an actual tree.
"Most of my installations tend to be site responsive," Senn explains. "I visit a site, get a feel for it, make some observations, and often research the history of a place."
Senn's sculptures are comprised of these pages, torn and reformed into shapes that sometimes don't seem possible from paper - rounded, pointy or porous looking.
"There are a lot of limitations with paper," says Senn. "It's almost a two dimensional thing and I'm trying to get a 3D thing out of it. My sculptures are usually botanically inspired. People often see sea creatures in them," she says. "I take the pages of the books. I tear off the margins, because in the end I'm looking for a form that's totally covered by text."
Senn uses layers of book-page pieces, water and Elmer's glue over an armature to create her sculptures, which are often integrated into installations. The resulting shapes may look fragile in photos, but are surprisingly firm - and could probably survive being chucked across a room. But please don't do that, as Senn says each small sculpture element can take 25 hours or more to complete.
There is no theme with the words placed on each piece, and the books Senn uses come from all kinds of disciplines.
"Because I'm thinking of multiple ideas and how ideas interact with each other and transform, I thought it was more authentic to the work to use multiple sources for each sculpture," she says.
Senn's works are usually temporary, and often unique to a site, so she videotapes the installations before they come down and archives the videos on her website.
Senn's work has been shown in the Woolworth window downtown, in the permanent collection at Collins Library at the University of Puget Sound, in the Doppler PDX Gallery and 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland. Most recently Senn's work was on the Prairie Line Trail as part of Public Art in Depth program.
Find Holly Senn on the Internet at ryksenn.com.