Sculptor Kevin Box made a deliberate decision to leave paper behind. Originally trained in graphic design and papermaking, Box decided he didn’t want all of his work to end up in a landfill. He wanted his legacy of art to last long after he leaves the earth. And so, in 1999, he “left paper behind,” and started studying fine art sculpture and bronze casting.
In 2001, Box was managing one of the largest fine art foundries in Texas, which was in the process of expanding into a warehouse space across the street that used to be an old print shop.
“I walked in there and looked up and in the rafters was all this paper,” he says. “I’ll never forget looking up.”
That’s when Box was first inspired to cast paper in bronze.
“I bet you money that my first tries in casting no longer exist,” he says.
But within a month, he had reasonable success and within a year, he had a sculpture he was “happy to take out and exhibit and see what people thought.”
Now, more than a dozen years later, Box lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His sculptures, which range from huge giant rock-paper-scissor sculptures to origami-style Pegasus horses and cranes, are found in a 12 galleries, three museums and more than 20 private art collections. His work can also be found in hundreds of public art collections.
“I wanted to make the most archival paper in the world,” he says. That’s just what he’s been doing. But for nine years, an idea simmered in the back of his head. He wanted to create a sculpture incorporating 1,000 origami cranes.
“The ancient Japanese legend, Senbazuru, means 1,000 cranes or many, many cranes. The legend is if you fold that many, you’ll have a wish come true. It’s also a symbol of health, prosperity and long life,” Box says.
The big project Box is consumed with currently is called Origami in the Garden, debuting at the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens this summer. The crown jewel piece within that 15-piece exhibit (which will travel to botanical gardens around the country) is called MasterPeace, which will be unveiled at a gala in Santa Fe in June.
“We cast 1,000 cranes all at once at the foundry,” Box says. “Five hundred cranes were scattered around the world as individual collector’s pieces and 500 were gathered together in a sculpture. The monument stands on a black granite base that is a mirror. It reflects itself, and reflects the cranes scattered around the world, but all 1,000 are together forever in monument.”
The people who own the small pieces in essence paid for the monument, which is not for sale, only exhibit.
It’s very complicated, but also elegant and simple once you get it,” he says. “That’s the part I love, that ‘A-ha, wow’ moment where they say, ‘That’s so cool, I want one. I want to be a part of it.’”