By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com
The other day, when I went into our guest bedroom, I noticed two of my mother's collage pieces on the wall. She was a painter, but she also loved collage. Aside from several works of art, she also left me bags of her raw materials: colorful papers, some ribbon, a piece of corrugated paper from the inside of a cookie box, a gold envelope, magazine images, and even a pair of old eyeglasses!
I googled the word "collage," and found some interesting information from Wikipedia. It said that collage is defined as an art form in which various materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric are arranged and adhered to a backing. The word collage is from the French word "coller," which means "to glue." This term was coined by both Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in the beginning of the 20th century when collage became a distinctive part of modern art.
According to an essay from the Guggenheim Museum's online art glossary, the glued-on patches that Braque and Picasso added to their canvases offered a new perspective on painting when the patches "collided with the surface plane of the painting." From this perspective, collage examined the relationship between painting and sculpture, and these new works "gave each medium some of the characteristics of the other." The Guggenheim essay also noted that the use of bits of newspaper was a reference to current events, and to popular culture. This juxtaposition of signifiers, "at once serious and tongue-in-cheek," was fundamental to the inspiration behind collage.
There are several artists at Wilde Meyer who use collage in their artwork. I spoke with three of them.
Bill Colt is following the tradition of Braque and Picasso, using pages from old magazines he finds in antique stores to inspire him. "I call it 'retro collage,'" he says. Bill collects old magazines dating back as far as 1947 (Colliers); Life magazines from 1952,as well as old copies of Good Housekeeping, Family circle and Look Magazine. He’s really interested in the old ads. His painting, entitled "Desert Cutlass" has some of those 1952 clippings which he paired with his image of the old Cutlass. Underneath the paint surface of the colorful "Woody," painting, Bill has collaged old cartoon clippings, including one at the bottom of the page with a boy and his dog that you may recognize.
Bill is a corporate pilot, and his airplane paintings include pieces of aviation maps, old Pan Am ads and aviation engineering manuals. "In Country" depicts F4 fighter planes from the Vietnam War, and if you look closely at the upper right corner, you’ll see a 1960's image of Jim Morrison.
Bill's collage technique is pretty methodical at first. To start, he creates texture on his canvas with joint compound and bits of things like cheesecloth. Then, he collages pieces of his printed materials on the canvas with gel medium. As the creative process takes over, he draws his image in charcoal, and then paints with acrylics, covering some of the collage work. To finish, Bill glazes his painting with a product that deepens and enriches his colors.
Charles Davison considers himself a multi-media artist. He takes the collage concept even further, using beads, buttons and other items, in addition to paper and fabric, to create his artwork. Charles has been in Arizona since 1978, but even when he lived in New York, he said he was interested in southwestern themes. He said that his work has evolved from a non-representational style with neutral tones, to his current focus on horses and Native Americans, all painted in bright colors and enhanced with his collage work. For example, in "Back Road Boys," he uses fabric to create the cowboys' scarves, two of the shirts, and the brown pants. Actual buttons are glued on to the shirts, and the buckles are made of buttons and other materials.
The Native Americans depicted in "Dawn Council" are wearing actual beaded necklaces, and their clothes are painted, then covered with strips of fabrics.
I think Charles' talent lies in the way he seamlessly combines his painted images with collage. Even though he uses many different materials, his paintings still have a unified look.
Like all multi-media and collage artists, Charles is a collector. He gets his materials from the desert, antique stores and thrift shops. His large, colorful fabric collection inspires him, as do his other found objects. They all enable him to work in multiple layers, adding materials as his paintings evolve.
Kristin Knight creates interesting mixed media paintings. They have a sense of history, since their first layer is a collage of antique images and pages from old books as well as music paper from player pianos. "I use three to five layers of papers – sometimes I also incorporate pieces of old watercolor paintings I've done," she said. "The shapes and textures of these collaged papers create an abstract under-painting. It's pretty labor intensive."
She then paints equines, buffaloes or Native American images in rich sepia colors. Finally, the paintings are covered with resin varnish.
Kristin has been an equine massage therapist, so she has an intimate knowledge of horses' muscle and bone structure. You can see her understanding of these elegant animals in her paintings entitled "Amazing Grace" and "My Prairie." In the latter, she has allowed the print from book pages to show through parts of the painting.
"My paintings merge the history of the layers with the glossiness of the surface so that the images float in a sleek liquid space," she said.
By adding a third dimension to what is normally a two-dimensional art form, multi-media paintings with collage have a tactile, textural quality that is very appealing. I think we react with surprise and wonder when we examine these paintings and see the bits and pieces of things that have been incorporated by the artist.
These three artists, as well as several others are currently displaying their mixed media work in a month-long show at Wilde Meyer's Marshall Way gallery.