DOCUMENTING A FAMILY: The Post-it notes that artist Karen Stolper tucked into her daughters’ lunch boxes every day as they attended Princeton public schools became an art project that is currently on view at Princeton Public Library.
By Anne Levin
Back when Karen Stolper and her husband lived in Manhattan, he received a lifetime supply of Post-it notes after making a donation to a charitable foundation. As an artist and admitted saver, Stolper made sure the Post-it notes came with them when they moved to Princeton, where they raised two daughters and put them through the public school system.
Those 3-inch-by-3-inch squares of paper soon became the basis of an art project. Every day for 12 years, Stolper tucked tiny scenes of everyday life into her daughters’ lunch boxes. And every day, her daughters (now in college), brought the notes home again.
Some 700 of these compact works of art make up “In Lunch with Love,” a series on view at Princeton Public Library’s second floor Reading Room through August 28. Some 2,300 more are part of Stolper’s collection at her home.
In her artist’s statement, Stolper said, “This project is about all the big days and many little things that make a family, and make a life. ‘In Lunch with Love’ is a reminder that our children have the most important place in our hearts, souls, and funny bones, no matter where they are.”
“They were about universal things, but also things just between us,” Stolper said in an interview. “They were about things as small as when we had ants in the kitchen, and as big as a birthday party. They started to show themselves as a story of what it’s like to grow up. They became a document of our family.”
A graduate of the Parsons School of Design, Stolper works in acrylic paint and pen-and-ink. Her illustrations have appeared in newspapers, magazines, book covers, greeting cards, art stamps, and paper goods. In addition to her illustration work, Stolper’s skyscapes and architectural paintings have been exhibited nationally in juried, solo, and group shows.
“As the field evolved, I did too,” she said. “I got into licensing, greeting cards, paper goods, and rubber stamps. I started working on some children’s books, too.”
With her artist’s eye, Stolper sees possibilities when others might not. “I struggle with getting rid of paper goods and art supplies,” she admitted. “The Post-it notes were there, and the project kind of evolved.”
Stolper was a co-founder of the Princeton Artist Directory for local artists. The group came to the attention of the library’s Adult Programming Manager Janie Hermann, who has arranged shows by members over the years — including paintings by Stolper. “I wasn’t sure that the Post-it notes were art, but I started to talk to Janie about it,” Stolper said. “That’s how this show came together. She has been hugely supportive, encouraging, and helpful.”
Putting the project together “was not fun,” Stolper said. “And I’m concerned with what I’ll do with them afterward. But I have to say, it is very rewarding to see them exhibited like this.”
Also on view at the library is “Our Inner Ocean: Paintings by Minako Ota,” in the second floor Technology Center through August 30. For more information, visit princetonlibrary.org.