Since 1995, Ferrill Roman's professional art practice has revolved around researching, creating and exhibiting handmade-paper-based sculptures and installations, utilizing paper for its aesthetic qualities, its versatility, and its metaphoric potential. Through her explorations, she has experimented with many types of paper fibers and techniques; including creating hand-beaten paper from the plants in her yard, to working with abaca, flax, cotton, recycled paper and other fibers. She has cast paper into hollow molds to create solid objects, weaved and pieced it over and through open branch and wire armatures and layered it over convex molds and objects to produce hollow paper forms. She developed a process for using chalk and oil pastels with beeswax, powdered pigment, and a heat gun to create translucent waxy marked and toned surfaces, incorporated natural elements into the surfaces of works, explored the interplay of form and surface with text & image on sculptural forms, and created works with internal illumination.
In her earlier sculptures, she worked with waxed handmade paper “skins” stretched over armatures made of bound tree branches reminiscent of bones, to explore the intersection of the human body with natural forms and phenomena. She created human-scaled pod and chrysalis forms and “natural” iterations of human-made artifacts and vessels such as fireplaces, chairs, windows, and boats; the objects evoked a primordial sense of place, and conjured ideas of metamorphosis and interconnection with the natural world.
As her work evolved, she embarked on a long-term collaborative project with Mixed-media painter Kimberly MacArthur Graham; the two artists created “Cross Pollination”: a series of artworks that dealt with concepts of fertility and fecundity, manifestations of spirit and soul, and the beauty and underlying patterns found both in natural forms and the structure of human bodies. Part painting and part sculpture, the works became visual conversations where each artist’s work supported and complemented the other’s, and where the meaning of each piece was more clearly manifest through the intersection of contrasting media and aligned styles. She has also worked collaboratively with ceramic artist Katie Martineau Caron, digital artist, painter, and printmaker Judy Gardner, glass artist Donna Gordon, painter and digital artist Lynn Heitler, and art-furniture maker Gary Burditt.
Her persistent investigations of micro/macrocosms and human/nature congruencies are evident in her most recent installations, characterized by the interplay of delicate cast handmade paper objects reminiscent of cellular images, internal bodily structures, or molecular biology, – though many of the forms also read as celestial – combined with a hollow paper casting of the front of the artist's very-pregnant torso, internal lights, and other elements. The interrelationship of these paper objects, the spaces they inhabit, and particularly the lighting and shadow play on the walls and floor, create surreal environments for the viewer to move through and become part of. They communicate thematically about intensely personal experiences such as her son’s birth, her mother’s death, and a struggle to conceive a second child that ended in multiple miscarriages.
Recently, Ferrill Roman has begun creating a series of digital photographic collages. These works also address her persistent themes in a more oblique way; with these works, she has layered three or more source photographs to create colorful complex images that hint at a sense of narrative or an emotional state. Sources include original photographs of trees, snow fields, dramatic cloudy skies, and various plants and flying insects (butterflies and dragonflies) in naturally-occurring settings during different seasons, as well as photographs of elements and detail views from my installations. The resulting layered images read as internal mental landscapes; the interwoven images are subtle metaphors for the struggles and transformations resulting from frustrated desire, loss and change.