Carey Watters is an artist, designer, and educator who teaches at the University of Wisconsin—Parkside, specializing in graphic arts, book design, and typography.

Sitting quietly in her basement studio, she painstakingly and delicately cuts piles of cast-off printed materials into thousands of tiny pieces. Separated from their original source, these little fragments begin a new life as part of her paper reliefs. Watters’s labor of love seems appropriate given her inspiration: the histories of long-dead saints and the unheralded women who championed feminist causes before they were even acknowledged by society. These historical characters are joined by snippets of classical statuary and temples, representing past ideals that are often more legendary than real. Indeed, Watters regards her work as possessing a mythical aspect: she connects the past with her own personal experiences in the present, feeling a kinship with the challenges and efforts undertaken by women historically.

For Watters, her paper reliefs are essentially distress signals representing her own thoughts, desires, and feelings of marginalization. The cut outs, delicately pinned to their support, read as tears, empty thought clouds, or partial thoughts, reflective of the difficulty in finding an emotionally and physically secure place in the world.