It took four months, but I have finally finished “State of the Union,” my 30×24-inch collage of triangular cut-paper collages. This project turned out to be what my mother-in-law calls “un jeu de patience.” It felt as though the tedium would never end. Each individual triangle had to be cut to perfect size out of white paper. I had to keep up with where I was on the canvas, on my paper chart, and in the original photo (expanded on my iPad), all at the same time; then I had to cut tiny snips of colored paper to glue onto the majority of the triangles (especially the small ones). This is the first time I used only tiny, very sharp Fiskars scissors, X-acto blades (many), and tweezers. I used rubber cement so that I could remove the excess dried glue by rubbing very gently. There were days when my hands and the scissors got so sticky that every scrap on the workbench stuck to my fingernails and the blades, and all the flinging and rubbing couldn’t loosen them. I ruined first an apron and then several t-shirts by wiping the glue and snippets of paper directly on my clothing. The carpeting, pavement, grass, and deck between my workbench and the door to the house have been littered with sticky paper scraps adhered to the bottom of my shoes. I have been dreaming in triangles and seeing usable colors and patterns everywhere—on people’s clothing, on the TV screen, in the trees. Deep breath: all that can end now.
Today I sprayed on three coats of UV-protective finish and varnished the surface with a sponge brush. Tomorrow we’ll wire the back, slap on a label, and deliver it to an art show. I will be glad to separate myself from this self-portrait for a while!
“State of the Union,” 30″x24″, cut paper collage, based on a photo of reflections in “Untitled” by Anish Kapoor, a stainless steel sculpture at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA
I am literally dreaming in three sides now, trying to overlay triangles with people all night long. Maybe it’s the rubber cement fumes or the spring allergy medication, but my brain feels as though it’s being reprogrammed to see into a different dimension. Is this really 2-D art? I am trying to present something 3D in multiple fractured viewpoints all at one time. Each triangle in my collage is a world into itself, requiring me to cut and paste individual papers to make up a different angle and distance of one portion of a complete whole that’s been flattened onto a canvas. The fact that it’s partially a self-portrait makes this even more ridiculous. I may be getting a little obsessive about this collage, and so I’m planning to take a break from it next week. Perhaps by the end of May I can escape this nightmarish landscape . . . .
Yes, I’m still cutting out triangles and making mini-collages on them to try to capture the fragmented view of my husband and me as reflected in a stainless steel sculpture. I’m down to our faces now, and a mild panic has set in. So far, the foreheads and hairlines look like 1980’s computer graphics, but who knows what will happen as I add “eyes” and “noses” of cut magazine paper . . .
My studio isn’t clean and neat any longer; now it’s covered in slivers of (mostly) white purchased and found papers. I’m recreating an image of my husband and me cast on a stainless steel mirrored sculpture which is part of the permanent collection at the High Museum in Atlanta (Untitled by Anish Kapoor).
This is probably one of the craziest collages I’ve ever attempted because each triangle must be precisely cut so that all points line up. It’s slow going, but somehow intriguing. Although the image I’m recreating is vertical (portrait), I’m working on it horizontally (landscape) because I’m using the biggest canvas I’ve ever before attempted—30”x20”—and my arms aren’t long enough to work at it any other way. Oddly, I’ve opted to work in rows from right to left, starting at the top of the design.
This is another example of unpredictable outcome—I have no idea what this will end up looking like, whether I can pull off this illusion or not, and even if I do, whether it will be readable. It contains repeating images of parts of our faces, too, and I’m not sure how I’m going to recreate fragmented human faces using only cut up magazine ads.
Once again I feel my vision changing: now I’m seeing the world as a tessellation of convex polygons. (This, from someone who barely passed geometry in 10th grade and never went any further in math??)
The roughest times for me are when I’m in between collage projects. Here’s what my studio looks like right now.
Every scrap of paper has been swept away, my scissors are clean, pencils sharpened. Very intimidating.
I have plenty of busy-work to complete: delivering my two newest collages to an exhibit this week; shipping three collages to a gallery in Baton Rouge, LA, and sending supporting documentation; completing applications to exhibits that are piling up on my desk, by first figuring out which of my show-worthy collages will be available on those dates, which ones I’ve not shown with that group before, which ones meet the necessary themes, sizes, etc.; generating year-end accounting reports for my business and preparing for tax reporting . . . . But all the busy-work in the world doesn’t get me closer to latching onto my next project and beginning a new journey.
On a lighter note, though, I must give credit to my step-grandson for naming my most recent collage “It’s a Hard Rock Life.” Such a clever title (I love allusions!) for a collage of colorful vegetation growing tenuously along the Southern Ocean on the rocky cliff above Admiral’s Arch in Flinders National Park on Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
“It’s a Hard Rock Life,” 12×16, mixed torn and cut papers
SOLD! Just as my artistic morale hit an all-time low, a young man bought my biggest, boldest, and maybe best collage for himself as a birthday present. Not only did I get my asking price, but ART Station in Stone Mountain Village received a commission, too, which makes me very happy. I like sharing my success with a non-profit organization that has supported me over the years. And now my ego has received a badly needed boost so that I can look forward to 2017 and all that I have yet to create. Happy New Year, indeed!
People keep asking me, “How’s your artwork going? I haven’t heard from you in a while.” Just because I have nothing to tell the world doesn’t mean I’m doing nothing. I’m caught right now between life and art. I’ve spent a busy fall traveling and spending time with family, and building calluses on my fingertips so that I could play guitar (again). Additionally, I selected a subject and a collage style that is taking me a very long time to complete. There are not enough hours in the day, so my art has become blended in with all of the other ways I choose to spend my time.
I have two projects going at once: an 18×24 strip abstract that requires a keen sense of perspective (which, as you know, is a challenge to me) and small, colorful 10×10 decorative abstracts for upcoming holiday shows. So my studio looks like a bomb went off in a confetti factory, and I’m dragging tiny strips of paper across the yard and into the house stuck to the soles of my Crocs with balls of rubber cement. It’s been open-window weather, which is fine until there’s the slightest breeze. One dare not sneeze in my studio right now, either.
A Work in Progress
So what is this mess? Well, imagine you are looking into a ruined, 19th century, three-story brick building, and the sun is streaming through the windows at a sharp angle . . . Eventually the collage will be oriented as a portrait, but I’m working on it sideways (landscape) so that my left brain won’t over-think the perspective. The photo I’m referring to is also deliberately oriented the wrong way. I took the photo at Port Arthur in Tasmania, one of the original British penal colonies in Australia. I’ve already been at this one for about 6 weeks, so who knows when I’ll finish it or if it’ll work.
The holiday months lie just ahead on the calendar, and I will inevitably have even less time to work on my collages for the next two months. Maybe January will be cold and gray and icy so that I have nothing to do but turn on all my studio lights, crank up the heater and Pandora, and make art . . . . (A person can dream, maybe?)