We have a talented paper cutout artist right here in northern California. Kurt Stoeckel lives in the Bernal Heights area of San Francisco.
His paintings, photographs, sculpture and glasswork all look like paper cutouts. Now he’s creating LED lamps. One-of-a-kind ones.
An elongated glass panel stands 65 inches tall by 22 inches wide near a doorway in his studio. Etched into it is a line drawing that looks like a cutout of two people dancing under a cloud that has animal-like shapes inside of them.
The sandblasted panel has a background light that comes with the ability to change from red to green to blue or combinations those three colors using a remote control.
Dancing Under a Rorshach Cloud reflects the current fascination of paper cutout artist, Kurt Stoeckel.
“I’ve always liked indirect lights that are kind to the eye,” he said.
The elegance of his work reflects what he values. “I love the functionality and design of the Art Deco Era. Every product was designed to have some intrinsic value beyond its use.”
It was an era of “a conscious and universal attempt to make utilitarian items also pleasant to live around. For example toasters didn’t have to have all those deco designs and shapes. And because they did they were pleasant to live around and they also made toast. Making toast was secondary and the rest of the time it’s a beautiful piece of art. It’s a generosity to all of us to live around the comfort of a pleasing design.”Stoeckel grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania. His father loved photography and theater. “He trusted me with his cameras even after I dropped one. I appeared in every play requiring a child in a perambulator,” he said. His grandfather liked everything mechanical. “He taught me how to cut out metal shapes with a torch when I was ten.”
“That was my beginning, memorizing lines and welding things together.”
In 1994 he moved to Bernal Heights. “Painting had replaced metal sculpture.” He credits Bernal artist Toby Klayman as an influence. She taught painting at City College. He took her class and later became her teaching assistant.
He took lots of pictures. “I thought of myself more as a “What if” experimenter than a photographer creating compositions. Photography was one meditative roll of 36 exposures of film a week.”
“I still find joy and peace in a meditative walk with a camera. I now choose compositions that begin with ‘What If?’ I imagine turning a decade of photos into a ten day stop-action film.”
He considers himself now primarily a paper cutter. “I’ve made 10,000 of them while living here. I still paint. My paintings look a lot like paper cut outs.”
Since 2008 Stoeckel also teaches photography and theater technology classes in a local high school.
“I feel very fortunate to have a waiting list of collectors for my paintings,” he said.
He continues experimenting.