Do you remember learning to make snowflakes by folding paper and cutting it? Far from simply being a fun craft, the tradition of paper cutting is a fine art that dates back to 6th century China. The art of paper cutting was practiced solely in China until the 16th century when it started to spread westward, making its way into Europe by the 17th century.

Artists such as Reni Gower continue to interpret the ancient tradition of paper cutting. By exploring the role that light, shadow, and color have played in the history of paper cuts, Gower transforms the ancient techniques of paper cutting into dynamic installations filled with delicate illusions.


Reni Gower. Papercuts:White/cb, 2012

Reni Gower. Fragments: Chapelle, 2015.

Gower’s works are included in the Geometri AljamÍa exhibition (located on the second floor of Argyros Forum), which aims to bring the Islamic and Western visual arts together. Her experimentation with Arabic-Iberian inspired paper cuts began with her research on non-representational painting. Gower’s works on paper blend a more fluid, improvised painting approach with a more geometrical, repetitive technique. The patterning in these works references the decorative arts such as textiles and quilts, and the binary code of technology. This early interest in the hybridized combination of decorative arts and technology in culture relates to her exploration of cross-cultural hybridization in her Geometric AljamÍa paper cuts. In both her paper cuts and works on paper, Gower explains how her “intention is to slow the viewer down, to reconnect them with their visual senses, and to assert the benefits of quiet observation.”

Reni Gower. Fragments: Chapelle, 2015.

Reni Gower. Fragments: Chapelle, 2015.


Reni Gower is currently a professor in the Painting and Printmaking Department at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her art work has been showcased at both national and international venues for over 30 years. In addition to painting and teaching, Gower also curates award winning exhibitions such as FABRICation, Heated Exchange, and Papercuts. She has received numerous grants including a NEA/SECCA Southeastern Artist Fellowship and several Virginia Commission for the Arts Projects Grants. Gower’s work is represented in various collections, including the Library of Congress Print Collection, Pleasant Company/Mattel, Inc., and the American Embassies in Lima. Peru.

Reni Gower will be speaking atClear-cut: The Point of Paper Cuts. A Panel Discussion on the art of paper cuts at Chapman University. The panel will take place on Monday, November 7th, from 6:00 – 7:30pm in the Bush Conference Center located in Beckman Hall, Room 404. The panel is free and open to all; no RSVP is required. Participants of the panel include Jorge Benitez, Bovey Lee, Chris Natrop, and Margaret Sosa.

Stay tuned for more blog posts featuring our panelists!

Please contact Esther Shin at or 714-628-2832 for more information.

We are grateful to the Escalette Permanent Art Collection Endowment for generously supporting this program.

Featured image: Reni Gower, Saleh Amin Untitled 2013