Last month I attended a group meeting with artist friends. We meet regularly to share art, inspiration, information about opportunities and exhibitions and bring great food. We talk at our meeting and talk while we eat. Everyone brings at least one or two paintings, or prints, collages or books they are working on currently. Alice showed us a lot of her recent works, including small 12 x 12 inch collages, pen and ink drawings (some with collage) and sketchbooks with drawings. She told us she even draws while the TV is on. I was impressed with her work and asked to do an interview. Alice is always creating art. Her studio practice is mixed media, collage, drawing, art books and more. I visited Alice’s website to look at images and sent her emails to get information for this post.
The image above is titled Strata I, mixed media collage and drawing on canvas, 12 x 12 inches. This was one of three works in the Strata series we saw at the meeting.
Alice says she is inspired by nature – within and without – and wants to create imagery and sensations of joy, color, movement and harmony. The image above is titled Color of Dreams, collage, and 24 x 24 inches. The dominant color is blue. Alice says, according to dream interpreters, blue represents truth, wisdom, heaven, eternity, devotion, tranquility, loyalty and openness.
I asked Alice about this collage, and said I see birds. I asked if birds have a special meaning for her. She said birds and trees show up in her work a lot. All the media in this work is cut and pasted papers.
The image above is titled Pieces for Peace 7, collage and mixed media on canvas, 24 x 32 x 1.5 inches. Some of the papers in this collage come from posters torn from building sites in NYC. This technique is called Decollage. It’s aFrench word meaning literally to unstick, generally associated with a process used by artists of the nouveau réalisme (new realism) movement that involved making art from posters ripped from walls. Alice says she has a personal rule and will not tear down posters unless some part of the poster has been previously torn. She says she gives herself permission to tear further and use the torn papers in her art. Alice is also a fan of graffiti art. Read about decollage here.
Alice says her inspiration for the Pieces for Peace collage paintings springs from both personal and social concerns about developing a peaceful world through teaching our children tolerance. She said this theme was brought into focus by her then 14 year-old granddaughter Rebecca who heard a talk at school given by Colman McCarthy, an American journalist, teacher, lecturer, pacifist, progressive and long time peace activist. In his talk, he stressed the importance of teaching peace as a course of study for young people…To quote his words: “Wars aren’t stopped by fighting wars, any more than you can fight fire with fire. You fight fire with water. You fight violence with nonviolence.” “Unless we teach our children peace, someone will teach them violence.”
Alice said her granddaughter reacted with such enthusiasm to this talk, that she was stimulated to create art and engage in the process of communicating the joyfulness of an imagined peace through her art. Alice says the dancers are in jubilant flight and “speak to a deeply felt wish of mine to build a peaceful world.” Alice said her granddaughter had a very positive response to her Pieces for Peace series.
The image above is titled Inner Visions Inner Rooms, collage, and 24×24 inches. The collage papers are images from a travel catalog and some papers show the architecture of Roman rotundas.
Alice calls herself a layerist, and says her layering is literal, technical, intellectual and spiritual. Layering is a concept more than just a process. Alice says she hopes the layering in her work creates a desire for understanding the work at a deeper level.
I decided to find out more about the artist and her thoughts about her work. I visited Alice’s website to see images. The home page has the words Kindness, Hope, Gratitude and Love in hand writing on a painterly image that’s blue, red, yellow and black. The website includes galleries for paintings, collage, mixed media, image transfers, prints and the series Pieces for Peace.
Following is the interview.
NN: How (and when) did you become a collage artist?
AH: I became a serious collage artist when I decided to move from traditional, representational drawing and painting to pursue abstraction. In the 1980’s I went to the Art Students League to study with Leo Manso. When I went to sign up I discovered that he had taken a temporary leave and Jerry Samuels was his substitute. I had a wonderful experience with Jerry Samuel’s instruction and then when Leo Manso returned, I had a different, but equally wonderful experience. That was how my love for collage began. I recall painting supermarket bags and using pieces as collage elements.
NN: Describe your favorite approach to collage and your favorite collage media.
AH: My approach to collage and my approach to all art making (with very few exceptions) is intuitive. It’s about freedom and responsibility: the freedom to create from within and the responsibility to follow painting and design principles.
As a multimedia layerist, I love to explore new ideas and materials. Paper is my go to medium – although I do incorporate other media and found objects in my work.
In my conversation with Alice, I said I believe collage involves piecing together ideas, concepts and visual elements and pieces of experience.
The image above is titled Frolic 2, oil/mixed media collage, and 10 x 7 ½ inches.
NN: How do you start a collage?
AH: Starting a collage varies- sometimes I start with paint. Sometimes I start without a plan (forethought) and just choose collage materials. I work quickly, and then I stop to observe the work – ponder it while I view it and also think about it when it’s out of view. I go back to it, continue to work on it, sometimes over a longer period of time. At a certain point I leave it, sometimes even unfinished.
NN: How do you know a work has reached its end point?
AH: I have yet to discover when that end point is – it’s just a feeling.
NN: What do you consider is the most unusual or unique collage you’ve made?
AH: The Fancy Free series with torsos – dresses made of leather from a recycling warehouse is a collage that is unusual. I used a myriad of found materials, metal, fabric, ribbons, etc. and on one figure created a ballet tutu with dryer lint.
The image above is titled Fancy Free 7 (#7 of 8 in the series), mixed media: leather, handmade papers, feathers, wood, bird’s nest, twigs, branch, emulsion transfer, screen print, Sculpey, shells, hand printed fabric and threads, 57 x 33 inches.
Alice says she sometimes creates a book and then adds collage to the pages. Sometimes collage is the inspiration for the book. She mentioned a Do si Do book filled with collages from her sketchbooks. She also alters books, generally using collage as the altering medium.
The image above is titled Toast of the Town. It’s an altered book that started as an Art Deco 1930’s toaster. Alice said she met a young friend at a flea market in PA and saw this toaster on a table and immediately thought it would make a great “book”. She purchased the toaster, decided to clean it up just slightly and not paint it and collaged a bit on it. The toaster is 7 x 7 x 5 inches. With the book (titled Healthy Bread), the work is 7 x 14 x 5 1/5 inches.
The image above is titled London. It’s a hand-made book, 10 x 12 x 10 inches.
NN: What is the media for this book and how did you assemble it? What did you use for the armature?
AH: The armature is cardboard cut into circles and attached to circular, natural vines. I collaged pages from Time Life books of London, Paris, New York City and San Francisco onto the cardboard and collaged a map of the cities on the bases, which were frames that I mounted on wooden bead feet.
The image above is titled Collective Dreaming 4, acrylic/mixed media collage paper mounted on board, and 38 x 50 inches. This work incorporates personal items, including a childhood handkerchief, and old prints. Alice said it made her think of Carl Jung’s book Collective Unconscious. After the work was completed, she saw a quote from John Lennon – “A dream you dream together is reality.”
The image above is titled Magical, acrylic, papers, found papers, fabric, and jewelry on canvas, 24×24 inches.
I asked Alice to name her favorite male collage artist and she replied: Kurt Schwitters. She said she wants to collect bits and pieces to make a new world. Other favorite male artists: Henri Matisse, Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Cornell, Pablo Picasso and Romare Bearden.
I asked Alice who is your favorite female artist, and she replied: Hannelore Baron, Joan Snyder, Miriam Schapiro and Kara Walker.
Alice’s work has been described as imaginative, playful and filled with energy and hope. I see all of these qualities in her work. But – it’s so much better to see her work in person.