David Ambrose

Detail of The Red Window with full view inset, 2020; watercolor, gouache, crayon, and ink on pierced paper, 30 x 22.5 inches

Ambrose: Like Thread Through the Eye of a Needle


My fascination with paper began when I was seven as I convalesced from major surgery on my right leg. At the time, paper became the playground for my imagination, and to this day it has remained my safe haven, the primary surface for my creative endeavors.


My family immigrated from Sicily and Italy in the early 20th century. Their path to America was guided like thread through the eye of a needle, since both sets of my grandparents included tailors and dressmakers. Those talents allowed them to establish their lives here and make a living.


Applying pattern to build a structure, sewing, and the needle all play major roles in my recent series of works on pierced paper. To create each work, the paper skin is first damaged by the act of piercing or puncturing it hundreds or thousands of times by hand with a pin tool—a long metal needle commonly used by ceramicists. The paper is then repaired by the act of drawing or painting on its surface, much in the same way my damaged child’s body was repaired by the surgery and stitches applied to heal it. I use a wide array of materials to repair or heal the surfaces of my paper works, including pastel, colored pencil, ink, gouache and watercolor. The equally divergent processes of control (repetitive pattern) and chance (intuitive application of color) play a major role in the work, with the whole having the feeling of a topographical map with each layer of the process captured in the final stratification.


The result, I hope, is both beautiful and engaging to viewers, allowing them to take their own personal journey across the surface of my work. I profess my unabashed alliance to beauty. There is enough ugly on the planet without my help.


Installation from Repairing Beauty, the artist's mid-career solo at the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, 2017

Nocturnal Revelations, 2012, watercolor and gouache on pierced paper, 18 x 12 inches



David Ambrose