Last month at a meeting of the Atlanta Collage Society I had the opportunity to show to my peers the latest collage I was working on. I showed them the book from which I got the idea for this exercise in flattened perspective: Study for Bart Van de Leck’s “Composition 1916 no. 4” done roughly in what looks like tempera paint. He was an architect by trade, but he messed around with his drawings of houses and rooms to create new compositions. I was really impressed with how a flattened drawing could still have depth, so I set about to recreate it in my style.
I explained to my peers that I was using 1/4” strips of magazine papers (cut precisely using a ruler and Xacto blade) for the blocks of color, and strips of plain white art paper as the outlining. The background edges are covered in a neutral decorative paper from the art supply store, to simulate the plain yellowed paper Van der Leck used. They asked the standard question: “What glue do you use?” When I responded, “Yes! paste,” they got into a lively discussion of everything they don’t like about Yes! paste. That was the extent of the presentation and following discussion.
I don’t think my fellow collage artists knew what to make of my attempt to copy a master. Perhaps what I did is too left-brained, too precise. I think most of them prefer to let their inspiration take them wherever it wants to, free-wheeling their way through multiple collages at a time with minimal planning, experimenting with many mediums. Perhaps what I do is too much design and not enough spontaneity. Maybe I’m too mired in structure and too restrictive with myself. Probably so.
But can’t a self-controlled, structured approach also be a reflection of an artist’s soul? Does every creative act have to be like a child’s finger-painting—wild, undirected, accidental—or can creativity show self-restraint, too, where what is left out is as important as what is included? (Think visual poetry.)
As usual, I have no idea how anyone will respond to “Unfolded.” I am hoping that it becomes the kind of piece in which one can get lost following the blocks of color, marching up and down the unevenly flattened steps that lead only to another block of color . . . .