What is a collage?

brooks_tree mosaic                                                             Tree Mosaic, Collage with painted papers over watercolor, 2013

I am an artist who makes collages.  How do I define “collage?”  I am challenged to think about this definition for at least two reasons.

Reason One:  There is a wonderfully provocative collage exhibit on display right now at the Olin Arts Center at Bates College.

Remix: Selections from the International Collage Center at Bates

I visited the show last week and found a wide variety of collage work on display.  Some of these works were challenging to my sensibility and others were inspirational.  “Remix” affirms that a collage can be made from anything. Collage is a way of thinking as well as a means of doing.  Some of the materials used by artists in Remix include Hershey Bar wrappers (Al Hansen), tinsel and family snapshots (Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt), rose petals and synthetic hair (Donna Sharrett) and med waste (Barton Lidice Benes.)  If you are in the area, I recommend seeing this show in person.

Reason Two: In June of 2014, I will be contributing a sampling of my collage work to a large group collage show at the UNE Art Gallery.  This collage exhibit  is being organized by curator Anne Zill.  http://www.une.edu/artgallery/

Details about the UNE collage show will be forthcoming.

My version of painted paper collage is a hybrid art born of my love of both the painting and constructive processes.  I define collage as a process of arranging, combining, and composing elements to make a new whole.  Each collage is composed of a multitude of decisions, changes, and alterations, both dramatic and subtle.   When I feel ready, I glue my papers onto a firm support from back to front.  The larger papers are glued first and other papers are fitted around and layered on top.   As I move along with the piece, I continue to arrange and glue various elements.  Glue is what binds the parts into a whole, much as grout cements the tesserae, or glass fragments, of a traditional mosaic into place.  At times, I unglue or remove a piece of paper that seems excessive or out of place.  My collages are complete when the elements are anchored with glue and the work seems to need nothing else.  Some pieces take weeks and others come together in a few days.  The creative dance is what I love–the ability to construct a world. It is an altogether “other” world from that of our lived experience in real time and space.  Yet, entering into a collage, we believe it is a place that extends beyond the boundaries of the page.   My work succeeds when it draws you in and holds you, when you want to stay in that place of color, light, and constructed space.

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