Originally uploaded by misphit
I started this piece a few months ago. I was craving to do something different, something brilliant...and I ended up freaking myself out so bad i could not continue. For a long time only the 2 pen and ink trees and the photo were the composition. This morning, I just said to myself, Hey, this doesn' t have to be your own personal Mona Lisa. Just do something you feel like doing. Finally, I was able to get by my whole aspring to new heights anxiety and finish it. I don't understand the tension that exists within myself to do things. I really want to do something so unique that it is unheard of. And then when projects start to look strange on the paper, I can't stand to leave them that way and explore it. I end up making everything look so much like this piece. It's obvious that I did it. It looks similar to countless other pieces I do. It's difficult to break out of your own mold. I don't know if I can. or should.


Making Collage Personal

It's been a long tough year for me. In May, my mother passed away from a vicious case of lung cancer. I understand it was a hard thing to avoid the cigarettes. Being a collage artist, I get a chance to peruse paper from different time periods. It's enlightening. The frequency of ciggie ads is amazing. The best pictures of actresses and actors seem to always contain the fashionable cigarette. The pressure to smoke must have been quite great. My Mom was just one of thousands and probably millions of folks sucked into the smoking habit. Getting back on track here though, the whole cancer thing is pretty sobering. You can't exactly get through an experience such as watching your mother dying without some kind of messages, feelings and repercussions. I had to withdraw into myself and feel the experience of loss for awhile. I stopped doing my daily collage work. Instead, I replaced it with lots of thinking, sorting, and learning. I read a couple of art monographs. I searched the web, reported to this blog, and recorded new reflections. It has been about half a year, and now I feel as though maybe I have worked through some of my grief. I am starting to get hungry though. I have been on pause...waiting to push the play button. It isn't like I didn't do ANY art over the past half year, because I have, but just not to the higher level of quality and quantity that I want to achieve. It took awhile, but my emotional well has filled back up and I am ready to tackle some new things. My goal is to get better at infusing that emotion into my pieces. I want to pour it out and smear my attitude on everything I touch. I have always tended to be "just" visual about things. How does it look? I enjoy color, line, and shape. I have explored context and textures...But that last and final ingredient, and probably the most important ingredient, the emotion, the message...that needs some work. I tend to do things and they come out autobiographical. I can't stop that from happening, but the signals in the work that point to the meaning of the piece are so subtle I wonder if someone else can even see them. I even wonder if the signals are even there! You get so one-sighted about your own work sometimes, it is a wonder I feel any piece is valid or complete! So this next phase of collage work that I do will be done with the emphasis on getting that feeling out and making collage personal. Difficult task. I have read that the older the artist gets, the more difficult it gets to achieve. I am trying to pump myself up for this challenge.

Collage Art by Ray Johnson

Untitled (Amei Wallach) 1977 collage on masonite 15 7/8 x 15 7/8 inches

The recent package of postcards that I received has piqued my interest in Ray Johnson once again. Life has a way of pointing me to answers that you seek, and sometimes new conclusions can be found in things that you have already examined. And so it is this case with my personal study into the life of Ray.
He was the father of mailart, the New York Correspondence School, the man who mysteriously jumped off a bridge to his death...but amidst all these personas was a serious collage artist. I found a really nice selection of 48 Johnson collage works on the gallery site of Kinz, Tillou + Feigen. My eyes were opened to his expertise immediately. He had a way of extracting the essence of a person (or persons!). He stripped people of their facial features, and filled their hollow shell of a silhouette with active imagery containing hidden cryptic messages and references. The technique is fascinating and after looking through only a few of these works, the collage genius of Ray Johnson becomes manifest.

Untitled (Janet Flanner's List) 1974-1989 collage on cardboard panel 15 x 15 inches

Sculpture by Max Ernst
In Untitled (Janet Flanner's List) I really appreciate the play of black and white, and the little figures that Ray Johnson creates...they seem so retro and futuristic at the same time. I think of Max Ernst when I see some of the faces in Ray Johnsons work. Some Ernst sculptures especially share this face-in-the-artwork similarity. (please pardon my own strange parallels!)

Untitled (Bill de Kooning) 1977-1990 collage on masonite 12 x 9 inches
Something about the echoing of shapes and the use of lines in Untitled (Bill de Kooning) really attacts me also. And here again the little cartoons and faces appear. They are such benign little creatures...they don't impose happiness, sadness or any other emotion to me. They don't stand out necessarily, but instead seem part of the design of the grander scheme of things. Brilliant.
One of my favorite things about collage is it's ability to blend things and make things one, a tenet of the Ray Johnson philosophy.
I know that he had his own xerox machine. And I also see a lot of monotone collage. I know he could paint and draw...but I am guessing he used the xerox machine extensively to create some of the pieces that later become part of these collages. This really personalizes things. I equate this to my own mash up acts of photography, alteration, print, cut, paint, paste. There's something about the black and white. It wakes up my pen and ink roots. I get to revel in the lines and shapes. I think inside of me is a bit of a cubist.

Untitled (Andy with Cows) 1976 collage on illustration board 15 x 15 inches
That should be enough evidence of collage intelligence. There are so many more examples of Ray's creativity. Visit the Kinz, Tillou + Feigen site. I think some of these pieces (and others) may perhaps be for sale. I wish I could afford any of them!! A collage collection worth half its salt certainly should contain at least one of Ray Johnsons works. I better start saving.


Collage Artwork by Kareem Rizk

Todays collage adventure takes me to the other side of the globe off to Australia. Kareem Rizk is a collage artist working with various media, including oil pastel. I don't use pastel too often, it drives me nuts how it smears, so I have to admire his controlled use of it. Pastel does cover well, and it is an essential tool in Kareems work. He creates balance using blocks of pastel color and to tell the truth, I am digging the effect he creates in the piece "The Park". On the left is a color block of pale almost skin colored pastel, and directly next to it is what looks like a collage pieces of paper. The torn edges at the bottom blend so nicely with that pastel edge....

I also like the openness of these pieces. There is a freshness to it, reminding me of THS and his gluebooks. However, there is less scrawling here, and more of a controlled feeling in Kareems work and I really do enjoy the way he places the pieces on the page for weight. There's a large gallery of work on his website for your viewing pleasure.


Present as now, Present as gift

On Christmas Eve we were so busy that we didn't have an opportunity to check the mail. I had been looking for gifts in the mailbox almost every single day lately, since I was an online shopper. Getting ready for the next day took all my energy and at that point I thought I had all the gifts. So I let it slide.
Christmas morning, I get the mail and amidst the usual cards and salutations (and bills!) is this strange envelope. On the outside 2 different post cards are attached with tape. They are post cards about Ray Johnson. I glance at the return address which I don't recognize. That's odd.
I open up the envelope and inside I find about 10 different post cards, all which are pictures of Ray Johnson in various places, doing various things. I search the backs of the post cards certain that I will find a written note or some clue of the meaning of these contents. Of course, there is none.

This tickles the living daylights out of me. Here it is, Christmas morning and my first present is this strange packet of special post cards from someone I don't think I know!!And they are about an artist that I study about and admire....
I go back and try to figure out where they came from, how did this happen. I AM a fan of Ray Johnsons, and in fact have recently purchased his movie "how to draw a bunny" on amazon. I await it's arrival! But I still couldn't find a connection. Then I noticed that the return address on my envelope had the same name as the photographer of all these great Ray Johnson pix! His name is on most of the cards that were sent to me. William Wilson himself has sent me a little treasure trove of very cool goodies. I am psyched!! What a crazy thing. I just love intrigue, especially on Christmas day. That's a gift in itself.

The outside of the envelope says, "[mail art] has no history, only a present, which was a pun, of course, on present as now, and present as gift. A pun on my own way of giving information and objects or whatever, in letter form."—Ray Johnson
How bizarre! This packet was also a present to me, in the shape of a Christmas morning present. I love it when things like this happen. I can't wait to respond to it!!

Hope Kroll—Collagiste

Test Pattern

I came across the work of Hope Kroll awhile ago and have kept her bookmark in my list ever since I came across it. I have to admit I have a fetish for things Victorian, things nature-related, and Hope uses these subjects in her work frequently, drawing me in.

Beyond this Place
Hope Kroll's work is special because of it's 3d quality. Upon first examining her pieces, I was very curious as to what the interesting shadow effect was caused by. I have used pen and ink in the past in order to create this effect, but in her work the shadows are absolutely perfect, which of course my hand drawn ones were not! Reading the artist statement on her website, I was drawn to her explanation of using foam board. She says, "Recently, I have begun to make use of archival form core to lift elements of my work off the page. I find the three-dimensional effect lends additional visual drama to my work and helps to showcase the highly meticulous nature of my cuttings." I agree with her. The effect is stunning and in some of her pieces I feel as tho the drama is enhanced by this shadowing of image. It also has a way of over-enhancing things with emphasis, which could be helpful in future work.

There is a lot of work posted on her site and all of it is intriguing. I have spent a lot of time looking at her things...You can see her work currently in San Francisco at the Triangle Gallery. Her work is showing thru the 26th of January. Also showing are works by Judy Dater and Wanxin Zhang.


Happy Holidays

seasons greetings from my kitchen to yours

I want to wish anyone who may be reading this a very Happy Holiday.
I will be driving to Philadelphia Saturday morning for some holiday time with my father and grandmother. I will return before Christmas, but I will not blog a post till Wednesday.
Peace Love Groove Art

reindeer ready to leap


An Extensive Use of Maps

Reclining Woman, collage, 15" x 11"

In this little pocket of Californian collagists, I found another gem. Nancy Goodman Lawrence does detailed portrait collages. Her subjects appear to be people most of the time, and in depicting them, she uses a large variety of maps...."Mountains, oceans and roads become veins, tree branches, rug patterns and clothing, as I surgically manipulate them, bit by bit, from one context to another."
I feel as tho artists sometimes tend to sample a theme or technique and in doing so often they achieve a high level of dexterity and mastery. I can see in the sampling of work on Nancy's site that she has delved into her own personal style of portrait making pretty deep... Her excellence in her own special technique really shows. I am particularly fond of this piece, called Ori. (personaly, I feel a constellation effect created in the dogs head, and I really like the blue eye!)
She has an exhibition coming up in January.

Ori, collage, 23 1/2" x 31 1/4"

Top Honors Exhibition
VIVA Gallery
13261 Moorpark
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Gallery Hours:
Wed. - Fri. 11 - 4 pm
Sat. 12 to 4 pm
Artists' Reception:
Sunday, January 6, 2008
2 to 5 pm

J. Natasha Kostan

10” x 9 ½”
This California collage artist creates thickly textured collage work. Her use of text seems lyrical and almost music like in the piece Sigma-SH-D shown above. With a history of education in fashion and interior design, and print making she uses a diverse vocabulary to create her collage images. I did not find a website of her own, but I did find several pieces scattered across the web by doing a google search of her name.
I really like the colors in her pieces...the colors work so well together. I like the idea of working on monoprints. I am looking more and more into printing...and this piece Untitled #310 has my brain cranking.

Untitled #310
Monoprint/Mixed Media Collage
40" x 30”

According to her statement, found on the SCWCA (Southern California Women's Caucus for Art) site, "My works are usually the result of a continuous refinement of established techniques and experimentation with new and additional materials."


Read an excellent article today

I read a great article online on the Harpers' site today, written by by Jonathan Lethem, which I found by reading the comments on the blog of Eva Lake.
This is a superb read. I would quote from it, but it would seem as though I would have to copy and paste the entire article!
Here's a little tidbit,
"Visual, sound, and text collage—which for many centuries were relatively fugitive traditions (a cento here, a folk pastiche there)—became explosively central to a series of movements in the twentieth century: futurism, cubism, Dada, musique concrète, situationism, pop art, and appropriationism. In fact, collage, the common denominator in that list, might be called the art form of the twentieth century, never mind the twenty-first. But forget, for the moment, chronologies, schools, or even centuries.. ....it becomes apparent that appropriation, mimicry, quotation, allusion, and sublimated collaboration consist of a kind of sine qua non of the creative act, cutting across all forms and genres in the realm of cultural production."
Also interesting...
"Finding one's voice isn't just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos. Any artist knows these truths, no matter how deeply he or she submerges that knowing."
There's so much content in this article worth reading.


Collage quotes

That last post was not exactly collage related...but I could not resist the absurd little sourpickle ornament.

Today I have a quote from a paper that was presented at the First Annual Conference in Memoriam Eric Mottram in London, 1997. According to wiki, Eric Mottram was a teacher, critic, editor and poet who was one of the central figures in the British Poetry Revival. I don't know enough about his work to understand his relationship to art and collage, but I did find some of text in the paper COLLAGE & POST-COLLAGE: IN HONOR OF ERIC MOTTRAM by Pierre Joris pretty fascinating.

At first I was kind of nauseated by this comment in the second paragraph..."When we think of "collage" today, a nearly quaint, not to say condescending, image arises of people of all walks of life being "creative" by making visual collages & gluing various pictures cut out from magazines - preferably old Saturday Evening Post type attic collections - or family photo albums."...I hate the stereotype that collage has gained. It seems bittersweet. Of course I enjoy and promote the fact that art and creativity can be employed by anyone. I like it that people from all walks of life, and not to be biased I will include men and women in this category, (altho men doing family scrapbooks seems a more rare occurrence) can do things that challenge their minds and tap into the creative side. This is great in these times of ultra media bombardment (TV, movies, ipods, videos, dvds, cds, blu ray hdtv...aaa!) Assuming that most people don't believe they have an ability to draw or paint, a collage approach to imagery is a nice way to achieve interesting results, without copious supplies and technique. Our commercial society realized this niche a few years ago, and thru media exposure, collage joined up with scrapbooking and zillions of new tools, techniques, mediums, and kits showed up on the scene. Everyone is a collage artist! Rubber stamps, die cuts, special papers. Good grief, but what about those pursuing collage as fine art and not as craft??
And so the art-worthiness of collage got somewhat tainted in recent times. I thought only I felt this bias...and that I was just being sensitive to my own shortcomings with painting and drawing! I have been searching the web filling this blog for over a year proving to myself that collage is indeed it's own fine art...But when I read the quote mentioned above, it all came back and now I got angry. Grrr.
There were other interesting things in that paper, thankfully. It goes a bit into the history of collage and it's provenance (yawn picasso yawn braque, good grief) I also read this..."as Gregory Ulmer puts it: "[C]ollage is the single most revolutionary formal innovation in artistic representation to occur in our century." Ulmer, like many, if not most art and literary critics sees its origin in the quest for "a solution to the problems raised by analytic cubism,"..." I do think it has been revolutionary. Think of one creative sector not affected by cut and paste.
Moving along to other quotes I want to save from this essay...this one a quote from the Italian futurist painter Severini ..."to comprehend the sense of a more profound and inner reality which would have been born from the contrast of materials employed directly as things placed in juxtaposition to lyrical elements.'
"Gregory Ulmer suggests that "collage is the transfer of materials from one context to another, and 'montage' is the dissemination of these borrowings through the new setting," while Charles Bernstein sees montage as "the use of contrasting images toward the goal of one unifying theme" and collage as "the use of different textual elements without recourse to an overall unifying idea.""
Wow. I have to ponder over these before I can make an opinion. The essay branches off at this point and goes on to consider Eric Mottram and the collage aspects of his poetry.
Interesting stuff to think about.



Flights of Fancy

Chris Giffin has a show going on at Mary Lou Zeek Gallery in Oregon. Assemblage artist Giffin shares her thoughts,
"This body of work I hope captures some of the fun and whimsy I see when I look at a roomful of beautiful old objects, disparate in character, and ask them to dance together in my mind. The outcome can be hopeful and lighthearted or thoughtful, even melancholy. But in all, it forms a collection of work that pays much tribute to my fancy for birds, flight, wings and freedom.
F.L.. Wright said, "An idea is salvation by imagination" I think so..................."

Her assemblage work does have a playful quality to it and an entire gallery of this work would be uplifting. I For more details, visit Mary Lou Zeek Gallery's website.

Mary Lou Zeek Gallery
335 State Street
Salem, Oregon 97301


Collage/Décollage--the work of Emily Hunt

interesting use of bookcover...I like her extending above it, larger than life

According to wiki, décollage "is the opposite of collage; instead of an image being built up of all or parts of existing images, it is created by cutting, tearing away or otherwise removing, pieces of an original image."

Usually I am in the process of building building, adding layers upon layers and working bottom up. I am intrigued at the reverse process, that of breaking it all down. Emily Hunt does both. Her work is ebbing and flowing, all at once. This technique is something that I have yet to explore, and Emily's work inspires me this way. I really admire some of the pieces that I found on her site. She has that special ability of being able to keep the square part of an image while she blends in a background.

this one surreals me

The challenge of keeping the geometric shapes of ephemera is something that I enjoy in collage work. Not only can Emily work with the rectangular so well, she can also break the surface plane with it, using it to her advantage. The rectangle is given depth when used in this way.

i wish i could see this one better. i think it is text extending beyond the image

It seems reminiscent of street art, another thing I like to incorporate in my own work. She uses photography of her own in her work, and also incorporates images from printed matter to convey rather strong images.

this image reminds me of the iRAQ streetart works. This is a serious graphic image.

Please pardon me for the continual comparison of other artists' work to my own work and to others'. My intention is exploration. context. I hope it isn't too annoying. Part of my reason for this blog is to allow me to explore the world of collage, in it's myriad of complexity, and to figure out my place within it. I never want to sound haughty, arrogant, or above anything that anyone else is creating. Art is love.

Featured on myartspace.com!

Cool. Today I received notice that my artwork is being featured on the front page of myartspace.com!
I have uploaded some of my Sharon Springs works to their site. It's a good site for networking with other artists and browsing fine art works. The interface is sleek and it's easy to upload and work with it. Sweet. I seriously appreciate being featured. Sure feeds the ego.
The SSDK (sharon springs decay) project is coming along! I have been working on videos and interactive flash pieces, along with the web interface. You can check in on the website progress here...
More to come on this soon.

Artcolle Museum

I have not mentioned the Artcolle Museum in Europe yet. This is a great site for viewing work of collage artists abroad. This organization holds exhibits, hosts collage benefits, and also creates collaborative published books. I like the idea of organized artists, but I don't seem to be able to pull it off! There are groups near me such as the UAG in Albany that I could join up with and although I have downloaded the application twice now, I have yet to actually fill it in and join. There is also the National Collage Society that has caught my eye over the years, but again, I have failed to follow through on joining. The Artcolle Museum would seem a worthy group to be involved with, particularly if you don't live in the states.
They have announced 2 publications that may be of interest to collagists:

Volume 1
The art of the collage at the dawn of the twenty and first century

The first volume: art history of the collage from 1200 till 2005 150 pages which 104 reproductions colors - 105 artists is always available.

Volume 2
The techniques of the art of the collage

140 pages among which 88 pages reproductions colors - 88 artists.

More information may be found here on their website.


garageography by Lewis Koch

I found this very cool site today on Afsnit P (don't ASK me what that means!). The interface on this exhibit is really interesting to me. I enjoy art displayed in different and creative ways. This show was presented in flash via the net, and I also believe it was an exhibit in his garage in Wisconsin. He named the show Garageography. It doesn't exactly relate to collage, but the idea was worth sharing and archiving for future ideas.

___A place to find all kinds of information about collage.