It came from a place of grief, but Greenpoint-based artist Michael Hambouz’s latest project turned into a source of immense joy and propelled him towards a new artistic journey.
Hambouz’s mother died in 2012. It was a troubling year for him both personally and professionally. It was at this time that he made a trip back home to Niles, Michigan. And even though he didn’t have a home after his mother’s passing, he began to find solace in the work going at one of the oldest, independently owned paper mills in the country.
The 140-year-old mill run by the French Paper Company was a source of catharsis for Hambouz and also served as the inspiration for his artistic expression.
Deviating from his focus on canvas paintings, Hambouz has documented the production of paper at the mill right from when it is in the form of pulp until it’s created into the final product, in a new series of cut-paper collage pieces titled, Factory Made 1-18.
“There is just so much beauty and depth in the process,” said Hambouz. “But it also allowed me to pay tribute to my roots and it allowed me to forge new connections in my community.”
Hambouz grew up close to the mill, but didn’t connect with it in the same way until he began making trips to the city to take care of his mother’s affairs, and reconnected with one of his high school friends who worked at the factory, Troy Vance.
Hambouz worked off of hundreds of photographs taken by Vance of the production process and then created collages by hand at his studio in Greenpoint.
He was also drawn to the environmentally friendly aspect of the project. The factory itself is hydroelectrically powered, and Hambouz utilized paper created at the factory in order to create his project, which features 18 collages that measure 26” x 35” each.
For Hambouz, the project is also a celebration of the work of independent artists like himself. The paper mill was just one example, but his tribute to small manufacturing is also inspired by the time he has spent in Greenpoint.
Hambouz has lived in the neighborhood since 2005, and said that even though the neighborhood was sparser back then, all the production and manufacturing going on around him was always a source of inspiration for his creativity.
Now Hambouz’s work is on display at the Lobby Gallery in Manhattan with a reception for his work to be held next week.
Hambouz’s adventures out of his comfort zone have prompted him to undertake more such projects as he continues to experiment with his works on paper.
Michael Hambouz: Factory Made 1-18, 1133 Avenue of the Americas, Lobby Gallery, Thursday, October 2, 6-8 p.m, exhibition on view now until November 21, Monday-Friday 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., for more information on Hambouz work visit http://www.michaelhambouz.com.