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Rise, 2007. Colored paper and acrylic on paper. 69 x 57 inches.
Francesca Gabbiani

One Question With Francesca Gabbiani

An artist to know

Neil Patrick Harris is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Wondercade. In his spare time he also acts — fairly well, too, as his Tony and Emmy Awards can attest.

March 31, 2023 5:42 pm

Pop quiz: Do you know what the traditional gifting theme is for a 1-year anniversary? (For context, a 25th is silver and a 50th is gold. And a 16th is…wax…weird.) It’s paper! So sticking with the gist of this special celebration of Wondercade’s first year, I decided to shine the proverbial spotlight on one of my favorite artists, Francesca Gabbiani — who uses insanely intricate, colorful cut paper to conjure scenes that are haunting and liminal, and just plain gorgeous. David and I are lucky to care for 2 of her pieces (see above and below) in our home. 

I caught up with Francesca — whose work has been shown all over the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA and LACMA — to ask her about her work, and chosen medium.

NPH: You started your career as a painter before embracing paper. Why did you change mediums? What is it about paper that captures your attention?

FG: You’re right, I didn’t start with paper. When I graduated from UCLA with my MFA, I had no money to buy supplies, and I just wanted to work. So I grabbed the easiest medium — and that was paper. I used to cut through layers of paint, and just kept cutting, but with layers of paper. And I loved the result — it was both intimate and fragile. To me, paper has an immediate quality that I feel drawn to…I feel like it represents life: it’s the pulp of trees…. Also, the art market is really geared toward painting, and paper is more subversive in a way.

artwork by Francesca Gabbiani
Untitled, 2011-2012. Colored paper and gouache on paper (detatail). 30×30 inches
Francesca Gabbiani

NPH: Love it. Two random follow-up questions. What’s the most beautiful paper currency you’ve ever seen?

FG: The French 50 francs bill. It doesn’t exist anymore. One side has Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and the other side has The Little Prince. I love that story.

NPH: Samesies. Tell me about the gnarliest paper cut you’ve ever had.

FG: [Laughs] It’s really pretty incredible — I have no idea how, but I’ve never had a paper cut. I think paper cuts avoid me. They’re like, “We like you! You’re using us; we’re not going to cut you.” They wanna treat me right. If I leave them too long, maybe they’ll come back with a cut.

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