“Dancing in the Counterform” at the State Street Gallery at Robert Morris University Illinois, 401 S. State Street, is an art exhibit not to be missed. Created by artist Richard Shipps, the art pieces take over the gallery by climbing up columns, using light from the huge display windows, and turning corners inside the walls. Then you realize – it is all made of paper.

To provide some insight to the artist’s approach, one must go back to the beginning. Richard Shipps can’t remember a time when art wasn’t a part of his daily life.  His mother ran a nursery school and paints, crayons, paper, scissors and all sorts of supplies were readily available.  This foundation led him to creating scenery for plays in high school, a career in animation, then media and media production.  Working for marketing agencies expanded his horizons  to create major advertising events with large, 3-D displays, particularly for the auto industry in Detroit.

Over time, he developed a passion for a medium he simply refers to as “cut paper.” The process involves different colors and weights of paper, and an X-acto knife – with an occasional dental pick or kitchen utensil to assist in spreading the artwork.  The result is dramatic art that uses shadow, light, movement and depth – all with different scale and density.  “Each piece has its own parameters,” Richard explains.  “I know the shapes, I repeat the patterns. I know where it starts and comes together.”

A self-described rule-breaker, Shipps has approached his art with a passion for figuring out ways to do things that may appear impossible to do. The amazing, intricate “lacework” of design in each piece does seem impossible, yet is exact – just like his primary tool – but still flowing, splashing and yes, dancing for the viewer.

“Dancing in the Counterform” is on display through April 26, 2018 at the RMU State Street Gallery, open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.Monday through Thursday.