I love the challenge of telling a story and sharing my values through the limited medium of historic costumes fashioned from paper. Using traditional techniques such as origami, embroidery and hand sewing, the humble highway map and other paper ephemera are transformed into life-size children’s garments and half scale historic portraits. Each dress provides a beautiful silhouette from a distance and then reveals minute and relevant details up close.
My paper costumes are a natural extension of a lifetime spent researching, illustrating, painting, and making prints of historic dresses. These paper garments, which can take weeks to complete, are made relevant by the materials included. I enjoy surprising the viewer, either with the trompe l’oeil of paper masquerading as fabric, or with thought provoking materials incorporated into the “fabric”. I created a 1600’s dress of Ophelia from Hamlet out of pages from the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), Mary Shelley’s 1831 gown from pages of Frankenstein and
oversized surgical stitching, the Horsewoman of the Apocalypse: War from foreign and domestic currency, images of weaponry and historic battle maps and once, a Marie Antoinette era dress from 1040 tax forms and US currency. Although the parameters of paper clothing are limited, the possibilities for research, discovery and mediums are endless. The more I explore the women who came before us, the more I understand myself and the world we live in.
The work here at WISC includes nearly a year of study and research into the legacy of The Three Wise Women who lived here at the Acequia Madre House. Using this knowledge, I will be completing a full-sized paper dress circa 1870 to represent the matriarch Eva Scott Fenyes. In addition, in collaboration with Lisa Nordstrum at Santa Fe Prep, I am working with 12th grade students to create historically accurate paper garments on individuals chosen from the New Mexico Historic Marker Program. We plan to have a joint presentation at AMH in March.
Liza MacKinnon is a self-taught mixed-media artist and arts educator with 15+ years of experience in teaching,
freelance graphic design and exhibited artwork. Working in Lawrence, KS, she has shown regionally in KS
and MO as well as NM, WA, CA, IL, SD and TX. Liza has exhibited in solo, paired, group and juried shows.
She has pieces in private collections all over the US and six of her pieces are on permanent display at the
Dallas Public Library and the Lucas Grassroots Art Center. Liza specializes in ½ scale historic costumes
made of paper, creating in-depth studies of women in history. Recently awarded a fellowship at the Women’s
International Study Center in Santa Fe in 2024, Liza looks forward to expanding to a full-scale adult garment
made from the historical archives of the Acequia Madre House.
Follow along with the creative process: