Wallpaper Comes to Life: The Unusual Art of Beth Katleman

Wallpaper Comes to Life: The Unusual Art of Beth Katleman

Nancy Mitchell
Aug 2, 2013

I can't get enough of toile — those French-y prints with people doing things in a pastoral setting — so when I saw this series of tiny sculptures that come together to create a sort of 3D toile, I was definitely intrigued. 

Viewed from afar, this installation, called Folly, looks like a sheet of wallpaper, sprung to life in intricate detail. But it's not until you get closer that you experience the work's full impact. 

The artist, Beth Katleman, scours thrift shops in search of bits of bric a brac — plastic figurines, miniature souvenir buildings, old toys — that "pine for a grander existence." She arranges these together into vignettes and casts them in porcelain, giving them a sameness and also a sort of strange dignity. The thing I've always loved about toile — peeking into all the little scenes to see what all the little people are doing — is still present, but the difference is that with a traditional French print you're not likely to see a giant squirrel next to the Eiffel tower, or two girls in Victorian garb embracing next to a lake with a drowning baby. It's beautiful, but also a wee bit unsettling. From the artist:

While one flea market treasure seems a little sad, a florid profusion of them is cause for celebration.  My sculptures examine the nature of consumption and desire in our time.  

You can see more photos and a video of the installation here. For more of Beth's work, check out her website

For further reading: our Color Therapy columnist, Mark Chamberlain, visited the exhibit in NYC back in 2011. You can see his photos, and read his musings about how this particular installation fits into the history of toile, here

(Images: Beth Katleman)

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