Leo Monahan
Paper Sculptor

Leo Monahan’s work is frequently colorful and so is his life story. The son and grandson of miners born in Lead, South Dakota, he grew up among the cowboys, lumberjacks, and the Oglala Sioux. He served in the Navy during the Korean War and afterward took advantage of the GI Bill to attend Chouinard Institute of Art in California, majoring in graphic design. While there, he was awarded the Disney scholarship, which turned out to be the beginning of a long relationship with the company: he would later build paper models of amusement park rides in nearly every Disney park worldwide.

During his career, Leo designed over 1,200 record album covers and created countless illustrations for advertising campaigns. But it’s paper sculpture (or paper in dimension as he calls it) that has long been his signature medium. He cuts, bends, folds, and paints it, creating work of truly breathtaking intricacy, using not much more than scissors, an x-acto knife, a burnisher, acid-free paper and the occasional paintbrush or airbrush.

With his wife Karen, Leo moved from Los Angeles to Barnardsville, NC in 2004 to “retire,” which for him means teaching collage classes and continuing to make art every day. We’ll visit his home studio situated high up above the town with long-distance mountain views. Leo will demonstrate both the simplicity and complexity of working with paper in dimension. If we’re lucky, he’ll also treat us to his jokes, stories of travels and interesting career experiences (including encounters with martial arts masters Ed Parker and Bruce Lee!).

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