Dress made of paper makes Governor’s art show

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Carlie Mentzer’s “A Dress of Many Words” is made up of pages torn from books. The sculpture is one of 300 art pieces from across the state selected for the annual Ohio Governor’s Youth Art Exhibition.
Carlie Mentzer’s “A Dress of Many Words” is made up of pages torn from books. The sculpture is one of 300 art pieces from across the state selected for the annual Ohio Governor’s Youth Art Exhibition.

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

A great dress will turn heads.

That’s what happened when London High School senior Carlie Mentzer entered her “A Dress of Many Words” in the annual Ohio Governor’s Youth Art Exhibition.

From among over 11,000 entries, Mentzer’s 5-foot tall paper sculpture of an ornate dress was one of 300 pieces selected as a state finalist. It will be on exhibit from April 13 through May 15 at the James A. Rhodes State Office Tower in Columbus.

 “This is such a wonderful thing for Carlie,” said Stacey Hallowes, London High School art teacher. “She only had about four-and-a-half weeks to complete this dress and, oftentimes, it left her in tears. I wish I had recorded her face when she first realized (she was a state finalist). It was priceless and something I’ll never forget.”

Mentzer’s creative process was indeed painstaking. She used the pages of old books to make the dress, tearing and creasing some to make the bodice and cutting and curling hundreds more for the skirt.

“I used 10 to 12 novels. Each of them had 200 to 300 pages, so it took a lot of paper,” Mentzer said. She picked the books not for their literary content but for their page color, preferring cream and yellow tints.

In the weeks leading up to the competition deadline, Mentzer worked on the dress 3.5 hours each school day and two to three hours each weeknight and weekend day.

“The skirt, with the curls cascading down, took a very long time to do. Half of the strips of paper would break when I tried to curl them,” she said.

Initially, Mentzer manipulated the paper using scissor blades as one would when curling ribbon. The process sped up some when she discovered she could get the same effect using a curling iron.

“That was an ‘Aha!’ moment,” she said.  

Carlie Mentzer
Carlie Mentzer

Mentzer glued the bodice pieces and skirt curls to an old wicker dress form. Once the sculpture was complete, she encountered her next challenge.

“The original dress was too big. We realized we couldn’t transport it to the competition,” she said.

Her solution was to cut the skirt off the dress form, pull it together to make a smaller circumference, then repair parts that were damaged in the process.

The effort paid off. Not only did Mentzer make the state finals, she also found a new way to express herself creatively. “A Dress of Many Words” is only her second foray into sculpture. Her first was an ironic piece in which fast food items were running a race.

 “I had never done sculpture before. I realized I liked it and wanted to do more,” she said.

Mentzer is a third-year art student at London High School. She is in the process of choosing a college to attend this fall. She plans to major in early childhood education and possibly minor in art.

In addition to the dress sculpture, Mentzer entered four drawings in this year’s Governor’s Youth Art Exhibition. Two of her pointillism pieces made it to the second round.

The competition starts at the regional level. From the 11,000 entries submitted across 15 regions, up to 3,000 move on to state judging. From those, 300 make the exhibition.

The James A. Rhodes State Office Tower is located at 30 E. Broad St., Columbus. The exhibition opens at 2 p.m. April 13. Exhibit hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through May 15.

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