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Hemp and Switchgrass Featured in Local Exhibit

An exhibit at the Drury on C-Street Gallery showcases the work of local paper sculpture artist Shirah Miriam "Mimi" Aumann who uses her work to send a message.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more on the 44-piece multi-media environmental art exhibit, “Hemp and Pots—Grass and Trees.”

The pieces in the gallery on Commercial Street are made mostly of hemp and switchgrass.  They feature paper used in various approaches to showcase the fibers.  Some are lit, some aren’t, but they all have a message.

Aumann is an advocate for industrial hemp, and it shows particularly in two pieces:  “Hemp Can Save the Planet” and “Let Me Count the Ways.”  Aumann says the latter piece shows some of the many ways industrial hemp can be used.

"I took soy paste ink and mixed it with hemp oil and made some calligraphy inks so I could write on these circles of hemp.  And these darker circles, I've crushed hemp seed and put in the paper and so these are just many, many, many things that we can be making out of hemp," she said.

After decades of federal prohibition of industrial hemp, some states are bringing it back, including Kentucky, which recently planted a successful crop.

Aumann gets the hemp for her artwork mostly from Romania and Hungary.  She says it’s the strongest fiber in the world and the oldest that’s ever been found.  But there’s another reason she likes it.

"It's also the most difficult to work with, and I'm kind of like the guy that builds a ship in the bottle--I'm challenged to make the paper from it because it resists me so much," she said.

She was introduced to hand papermaking with plant fibers through the Jerusalem Fibre Artists Guild.  Aumann makes her paper in a way, she says, that’s been done since 105 AD.

"And that is that it's pulled on a screen--pulled through a vat of water and fiber--and forms on the screen, and in some countries it's dried on the screen or it can be removed from the screen and dried in other ways," she said.

She recycles and re-purposes whenever possible.  She received the Green Initiative Award in 2012 form the City of Branson for reclaiming the trunks of banana trees that College of the Ozarks uses for landscaping.  Each year, they bring the tubers into their greenhouse but discard the trunks.  A piece in her exhibit, called Banana Boat Afloat uses those fibers.

Aumann doesn’t work with trees—only plant fibers.  She gets the switchgrass used in her art from a biomass producers association in Halfway that has a ten-acre experimental switchgrass plot.  And she’s an advocate for the environment.

"And I use my art to make the message--even the titles in my art.  I have some that are very playful and provocative and then I have some that are deadly serious," she said.

An installation of a grove of three paper trees in her exhibit represents the deforestation of the Earth for paper.

The exhibit, “Hemp and Pots—Grass and Trees,” runs through October 29th at Drury on C Street, 233 E. Commercial.  Gallery hours are 1 to 5 pm Thursday and Friday and 10 to 2 the second and fourth Saturday of every month.

The film, “Bringing it Home,” which talks about industrial hemp’s past, present and future, will be shown tomorrow night (10/24) at 6 at the Gallery.

For more information, click here.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.