These pictures are cut entirely freehand: literally drawn with a knife. This unique art is a radical departure from the conventions of traditional folk art. As far as is known, there is nobody else working in this medium who goes beyond flat decorative design, who works strictly freehand, and who executes large, formally complex pieces.
The process is subtle and the results dramatic. Ross translates what he sees into black or white shapes, and cuts each white shape by memory into the black paper. Although the work is entirely improvisational, the slow, steady discipline and visual finesse create finished compositions of remarkable coherence.
Kenneth Baker, prize-winning art critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote about Ross's work:
"....improvisation seems to be a kind of artistic principle with him. This is dramatically apparent in several freehand-cut paper pieces that are essentially drawings done with an X-acto knife.
"Cutting his images from a sheet of black paper, Ross avoids simple silhouettes in favor of an interplay of figure and ground so complex you cannot imagine him envisioning it in advance of executing it. Nor can you believe, in view of the images' intricacy, that Ross has maintained the contiguity of the initial uncut sheet in turning it into a kind of doily-like stencil. Yet I could find no point at which he took a shortcut: each image is an unbroken web of perforated paper. The visual effect of the images is something like that of a linocut, but when you realize what you're seeing, the show of dexterity in each piece makes it crackle with an energy that no planographic process can yield.
"As 'Luba's Floral II' shows, Ross makes no sacrifice of decorative grace to technical convenience. This view of a plant in a vase has all the vitality of Matisse's late drawings in brush and ink, no mean feat."
Two of the original freehand papercuts have been reproduced as lasercuts. LUBA'S FLORAL and SPIDER MUMS have been issued as limited edition lasercuts. These outstanding reproductions are not 'printed' on white paper. The laser technology uses a brass template which replicates the original artwork; the template is placed over black paper and a beam of pure, condensed light is scanned across it, vaporizing the black paper exposed beneath and recreating the hand-cut shapes with pinpoint accuracy. To further refine the process, Ross makes 25 to l00 hand cuts on each piece. Each of the two laser pieces has been issued in an edition of 100 copies only.