In his backyard in Denver, Ray Tomasso calls paper making 17th-century-style recycling. His workshop is filled with boxes of old cotton rags, blue jeans, rag board and scraps of paper — the perfect material for his art.
Tomasso casts his sculptures on old cardboard, tin, anything that might imprint an interesting texture. And he wastes nothing; the gray waste water from the paper-making process ends up in his garden.
Tomasso was drawn to paper making in college while getting his B.F.A at the University of Nebraska-Omaha in the late 1960s. Underwhelmed by the etching’s lack of dimension and discouraged by clay’s brittleness, he turned to paper.
His work is both sculpture and painting. After casting each piece to have dimension, texture and shape, he paints forms to create illusions of age and natural materials like stone.
Each piece is a statement about the emotional and physical tolls left by the passage of time. He compares his compositions to looking in a stranger’s desk drawer, where different items accumulate over the years. In that way, Tomasso explains, his works become landscapes, each element relating to the others chronologically as well as physically.
Tomasso’s cast paper sculptures have been shown in exhibits from Germany to Japan, but his most recent exhibit, “New Work in Paper,” is on display at the Byers-Evans House Museum in Denver until the end of May.