Melissa Meyer

January 7, 2019

 

Drawing with Paint – Painting Collage

 

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Melissa Meyer, Summer in the City

 

Melissa Meyers is called a lyrical abstractionist. She paints free-floating, painterly ribbons of vibrant colors and shapes with oil paint thinned to the transparency of watercolor. She draws with paint.

I visited the exhibition Melissa Meyers: New Paintings (November 1-December 22, 2018) at Lennon, Weinberg Inc., 514 West 25 Street, N.Y. the week before it closed. The exhibition included large paintings, several smaller diptychs and one collage. This is Meyer’s fifth solo exhibition at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc. The paintings are bold and vibrant.

The image above, titled Summer in the City I, is oil on canvas (2018), 80 x 60 inches (image courtesy Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.).  It’s a grid with calligraphic glyphs drawn with a paintbrush with thinned oil paint in different colors. Notice there are patches of palest, almost transparent pink and yellow below the painted glyphs.

 

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Melissa Meyer, Draw the Line

The image above is titled Draw the Line (2015) oil on canvas, 72×96 inches (image courtesy Lennon, Weinstein, Inc.). Here, the background is a patchwork of warm and cool whites with a second layer of warm and cool blacks painted in a calligraphic design.

John Yau, who wrote a review for Hyperallergic, is a big fan, and has reviewed many of Meyer’s solo exhibitions at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.  He said: “When Meyer started using oil paint that was closer in consistency to watercolor, she broke through into a territory that is now all her own.” See his review (November 25, 2018) at hyperallergic.com.

 

DIPTYCHS

 

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Melissa Meyer, Trellis Too

 

The image above is titled Trellis Too (2017), oil on canvas, 36×72 inches, diptych (image courtesy Lennon Weinberg, Inc.).

In his exhibition review (November 25, 2018),Yau said he counted at least three layers of marks compressed together in Trellis Too, saying the first layer is a patchwork of palest colors (durian yellow, cantaloupe orange and watery blue), the second layer includes glyph-like brushstrokes in different colors where the brush can be dry or full, the color can be saturated or faded, and one glyph often slides over another. The third layer is a drawing in black with a geometric web of tangled lines that hold the first two layers together. In his review, Yau writes he likes the way the painting asked him to pay attention to how the glyphs drift across the surface, as well as within the layers, how the paintings merge division and unity without favoring either because you notice similarities, changes and ruptures.

 

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Melissa Meyer, Rearrangement Series 2

 

I was lucky to have a conversation with Jill Weinberg Adams, the gallery director, and told her I am writing about women who do collage. She told me Meyers has a long-standing interest in collage and a unique collage esthetic. I was intrigued.

I saw two collages at the gallery – one was installed in the exhibition, and one was brought out from a closet. The first image (above) is titled Rearrangement Series 2 (2018), watercolor collage on paper, 15.75 x 12 inches (image courtesy of Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.) The second image (below) is titled Rearrangement Series 3 (2018), watercolor collage on paper (2018), 15.75 x 12 inches (image courtesy of Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.).

 

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Melissa Meyer, Rearrangement Series 3

 

Meyer makes a connection between her approach to painting and the collage process of cutting, pasting, and arranging elements, and says she isolates elements while building the whole painting, and wants viewers to experience each part of a painting as dynamically as they experience its entirety.

SKETCHBOOKS

 

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Melissa Meyer, 3 Sketchbooks

 

The image above shows 3 sketchbooks with wide format, open double-page spreads on which Meyer added watercolor collage. I learned Meyer is often at residencies and, while there, creates “Residency Sketchbooks.”  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York reproduced one of Meyer’s sketchbooks.

Jill Weinbeg Adams gifted me Meyer’s exhibition catalog, which includes reproductions of the artist’s painting, the sketchbook images (above), and text about the artist’s collage esthetic.

At positjoiurnal.com I read Melisssa Meyers if very aware of the importance of collage in forming contemporary aesthetics, saying “As a method, collage encourages layering, shape-making and juxtaposition, all of which I apply to my work, from my paintings to multi-panel public works using expanded media (Photoshop).

View a carousel of more watercolor collages in the Rearrangement Series at positjournal.com.

 

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Melissa Meyer, early magazine collage

 

I found the image above online. I believe it’s an early collage by the artist on what looks like a sketchbook double-page spread. You see Meyer’s calligraphic line in black on variations in warm and cool white.  Notice the cut paper collage on top where the paper shapes mimic the shapes of the calligraphic line.

FEMMAGE

 

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Miriam Schapiro, Miriam’s Life with Dolls

 

Picasso and Braque did not invent collage. Many women made collage before the men did – but the men got the credit.

In her mid-twenties, Meyer and fellow artist Miriam Schapiro co-authored an influential essay that linked the history of collage to traditional female hobbies like quilting and scrapbooking. They titled their essay “Waste Not Want Not: An Inquiry into What Women Saved and Assembled-FEMMAGE.” The essay was published in the magazine Heresies: Women’s Traditional Arts: The Politics of Aesthetics (Winter 1978).

Meyer said she was always interested in scrapbooks made primarily by women in the 18th century. She discovered a collage sensibility in quilts. She valued the works of mid -20thcentury abstractionists, including Lee Krasner, who reused paintings and works on paper and recycled them into her large collages on canvas.

See a facsimile of Femmage from the original Heresies publication at artcritical.com.

The image above is a collage by Miriam Schapiro, titled Miriam’s Life With Dolls (2006), fabric and collage on paper, 30×60 inches (image courtesy Flomenhaft Gallery, 547 W 27 Street, NY, NY). Schapiro (1923-2015) was a Canadian-born artist based in the U.S, an activist and pioneer of feminist art. Schapiro worked to resurrect the reputations of women artists who had been forgotten or dismissed by art historians. She was a painter, sculptor, printmaker, and a leader of the Pattern and Decoration art movement. Read more at the artstory.org.

 

LARGE MURALS

Meyer received a commission to create two large murals for the Shiodome City Center in Tokyo, Japan (completed in 2003). One mural was forty feet high; the other was sixty feet long. She worked with computer technicians with Photoshop to create the macquettes for the murals, directing how image files were scanned, how glyph images were layered, how colors were made saturated or muted, and how her  painted calligraphic lines were made more or less transparent.

Meyer admitted the scale of the murals posed a unique challenge. She knew she  would have to radically enlarge the scale of her brushstrokes as she painted, and make each calligraphic shape more independent. She said the most basic challenge was to make the images work for viewers from all different vantage points. The commission got Meyers thinking about how her brushstrokes would move across the surface in the super-sized murals.

She said working with Photoshop renewed her engagement with collage and profoundly affected her sense of space and her attraction to the esthetic idea of radical discontinuity.

 

THE CHOREOGRAPHY OF BRUSHWORK

 

Melissa Meyer studio view

Melissa Meyer studio view

 

The image above shows a view into Meyer’s studio with her paints, brushes and books. Meyers says “ when I’m painting, I work intuitively, physically, thinking about brushwork as a kind of choreography, a dance that happens in the wrists and arms as well as the whole body.

 

Meyer has exhibited in over forty solo shows, and has been included in group shows at the National Academy Museum and the Jewish Museum in New York.  In 1997, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY published a facsimile edition of her sketchbooks.

Meyer was awarded a Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pollock Krasner Foundation.  Meyer’s work is included in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Jewish Museum and many other public and private collections across the United States.

Meyer has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the Art Institute of Chicago, and the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has completed public commissions in New York, Tokyo, and Shanghai, and currently has an eight by fourteen-foot ceramic mural in fabrication for the new U.S. embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgystan.

I am so pleased to write this post about an artist who has a collage esthetic and welcome your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Betye Saar

November 21, 2018

 

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Betye Saar, A Loss of Innocence

The image above is an installation piece by Betye Saar (American, born 1926) titled “A Loss of Innocence” (1998). It’s a chair and dress, 50x12x12 inches. The image is included in a Hyperallergic review of her exhibition STILL TICKIN: Six Decades of Betye Saar’s Personal, Political and Mystical Art at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (Jan 30-May 1, 2016). A Loss of Innocence includes a delicate white dress with short, capped sleeves on a wood hanger suspended from a wire directly above a tiny doll-size chair sitting on a low wood pedestal. The chair is a tiny shrine. The dress cast two shadows that spread from the floor to the walls. One shadow looks eerily like a lynched body. The Scottsdale Museum says “There is a touch of alchemy to Betye Saar’s artwork: transforming the simple and mundane into powerful art.” Saar’s art tackles issues of spirituality, race, equality, family relationships and autobiography. Every work is poignant, evocative and emotional.

Betye Saar was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1926. She graduated from UCLA in 1947 with a B.A. degree in design and began her work in the visual arts as a graphic designer and costume maker — a trade that is deeply personal to her because her mother was a seamstress. She continued graduate studies, working toward a career in teaching design. She took an elective course in printmaking that allowed her to segue from design into fine arts. She began making politically themed artwork after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Watts Riots. Saar taught art in Los Angeles at UCLA and the Otis Art Institute. Saar’s works are included in the permanent collections in museums worldwide, including 3 works in the collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NY. Saar married and raised 3 daughters. Saar received two National Endowment for the Arts Awards, in 1974 and 1984. In 2008, she was recognized for her career in art and community activism and awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus.

Betye Saar lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

 

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Betye Saar, The Liberation of Aunt Jemima

In 1967 Saar saw an assemblage by Joseph Cornell at the Pasadena (CA) Art Museum and was inspired to make art out of all the bits and pieces of her own life. She began making assemblages in 1967. She had been collecting images and objects since childhood. She came from a family of collectors. In the 1960s, Saar began collecting images of Aunt Jemima, Uncle Tom, Little Black Sambo and other stereotyped African-American figures from advertising during the Jim Crow era.

The image above is titled The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972). It’s the first piece Saar made that was politically explicit. Saar said: “My work started to become politicized after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. But The Liberation of Aunt Jemima, which I made in 1972, was the first piece that was politically explicit.There was a community center in Berkeley, on the edge of Black Panther territory in Oakland, called the Rainbow Sign. They issued an open invitation to black artists to be in a show about black heroes, so I decided to make a black heroine.” Read about the Rainbow Sign invitational here. She added: “For many years, I had collected derogatory images: postcards, a cigar-box label, an ad for beans, Darkie toothpaste. I found a little Aunt Jemima mammy figure, a caricature of a black slave, like those later used to advertise pancakes. Saar added: “She had a broom in one hand. I gave her a rifle. In front of her, I placed a little postcard, of a mammy with a mulatto child, which is another way black women were exploited during slavery.I used the derogatory image to empower the black woman by making her a revolutionary, like she was rebelling against her past enslavement.When my work was included in the exhibition ‘WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution’, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2007, the activist and academic Angela Davis gave a talk in which she said the black women’s movement started with my work The Liberation of Aunt Jemima. That was a real thrill.”

In American popular culture the mammy figure was a depiction of servility. Saar turned her Aunt Jemima into a warrior, brandishing weapons, contending with injustice, facing the darkest chapters of American history. The Liberation of Aunt Jemima is in the permanent collection of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. It’s Saar’s  most iconic piece. Photo: Benjamin Blackwell, courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, LA, CA.  Read more about how Betye Saar transformed the Aunt Jemima image into a symbol of black power in an artsy.net review here.

 

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Betye Saar in 1970

The image above shows a young Betye Saar in 1970 in a room she used as an art studio.

 

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Exhibition installation: Keeping It Clean

The image above is an installation view of the exhibition Keeping It Clean at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles (May 28-August 20, 2017). The solo show presented a mix of new and historic works that included Saar’s ongoing series of washboard assemblage sculptures, begun in the late 1990s.

In a review in the contemporary art magazine Art and Cake (June 28, 2017), Shana Nys Dambrot wrote: The washboard is a perfect object for Saar’s creative enterprise, whose particular magic has been the fusion of aesthetic, narrative, politics, and innovation into singular objects that triumph at all their tasks in art and in society.” In Saar’s own words, the new pieces are intended as reminders “that America has not yet cleaned up her act.”

Betye Saar also said: “I wanted to do an exhibition of my washboards because they are intimate and hands-on…It’s a body of work that I am still making, and the new works are inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. People think racism happens everywhere else, but racism still exists in Los Angeles.”

 

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Betye Saar, Mother and Children in Blue

The image above is titled Mother and Children in Blue (1998), watercolor and mixed media collage on paper, 8 5/8 x 6 ½ inches, permanent collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY – purchased with funds from the Drawing Committee.

 

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Betye Saar, Locksmith

The image above is titled Locksmith (2018), Mixed Media assemblage with metal frame, antique door locks, metal keys and vintage photograph, 14 x 11 ¾  inches.

 

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Betye Saar, Uneasy Dancer

The image above is titled Uneasy Dancer – Sock it to “Em (2011). It’s a red leather boxing glove with a watch on the wrist band and a mammy figure in a red dress tucked inside on top. The time on the watch is stopped at 5 minutes after 5.  “Uneasy Dancer” is an expression Betye Saar has used to define both herself and her artistic practice. I found this image in a review for Saar’s first exhibition in Milan, Italy installed at Fondazione Prada (15 Sep 2016 – 08 Jan 2017).  Read more here.

 

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Betye Saar, Indigo Illusions

The image above is titled Indigo Illusions (1991), mixed media assemblage with neon. This work was included in an exhibition titled “Betye Saar: Something Blue” at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles (Oct 27-Dec 15, 2018). All the works were made between 1983 and 2018 and all feature the color blue. Roberts Projects is Betye Saar’s gallery in CA and the exhibition was organized to show how she uses blue as a means to explore concepts of magic, voodoo and the occult.

 

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Betye Saar in 2016

The image above is dated 2016 and shows Betye Saar in her studio with all her stuff. Photo: Ashley Walker, courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles.

The Getty Research Institute (GRI) in Los Angeles is launching an African-American Art History initiative and has acquired the archive of works by Betye Saar as a first step. The GRI will help other museums preserve and digitize their own archives, and is working with the Studio Museum in Harlem, the California African American Museum, Art + Practice in Los Angeles, and Spelman College in Atlanta on this project.

 

NEWS

The Brooklyn Museum has installed Saar’s works in an exhibition titled Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (through February 3, 2019).  Saar also has a solo show titled Keepin’ It Clean at the New York Historical Society (November 12, 2018-May 27, 2019).

In a recent interview for the Los Angeles Times, Betye Saar said: “When you’re 92, it takes a lot to get you excited. I paid my dues, and now I’m reaping the rewards…I’m very happy that anybody can go to the Getty Research Institute to discover my work, not just the art community. It’s my contribution.

 

I am writing a book about women artists who create with collage, assemblage, photo collage and/or installation art. One chapter will be devoted to the artist Betye Saar. Please contact me if you have spoken with her – and thank you.

 

“Vicarious”

Solo Exhibition: November 1-25, 2018

Upstream Gallery, 8 Main Street, Hastings-On-Hudson, NY 10706

Reception: Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018 2-5 pm. Gallery hours: Thur – Sun, 12:30-5:30 pm

tel: 914 674 8548, web: http://www.upstreamgallery.com

 Interview: ©Nancy Egol Nikkal

 

Mitchell Goldberg titled this solo exhibition VICARIOUS and is showing his newest works in collage, image transfer and printmaking. The works focus on imagined or constructed memories of male companionship. Goldberg says: “I’m interested in male camaraderie, desire, and emotions related to body image.” His collages explore gay male sexuality through the lens of pop culture imagery, distorted memory and vicarious nostalgia.

“Vicarious” is an intriguing word. It’s an adjective used to modify another word. For example: “a vicarious thrill” – where the thrill is felt or enjoyed through imagined participation in the experience of others. As viewers, we can share in the pleasure of Goldberg’s love of his media. And – the media is the message.

Goldberg creates collage with cut and pasted papers, his own figure drawings, and image transfers of men from vintage magazines and photos. All the images are classic gay beefcake, soft gay porn, and automobiles, along with flashes of color and recycled imagery from his own work. Goldberg adds transparent layers of color in acrylic and encaustic to create depth and complexity to enhance the sense of memory altered, distorted and rewritten through the passage of time.

The artist adds: “while the works delve into the universal experience of loneliness, they also offer hope in the form of potential intimacy and companionship.”

 

Mitchell Goldberg, Remembering Them

The image above is titled “Remembering Them” and was the first work done for this exhibition. It’s a double panel collage (diptych) with acrylic and photo image transfer, 36 x 24 inches. The photos are almost all in B&W. The layered colors are blue and red. Goldberg says his assembly process for this work follows the same assembly process for media used in his previous solo exhibition.

 

Mitchell Goldberg, Summer Solstice

The image above is titled “Summer Solstice” and was done next. Goldberg says it’s from a series that feature his figure studies. This work is 16”x20” and the media is entirely acrylic and image transfer. The overlapping figures are in B&W. The transparent, layered colors are red, orange and purple.

 

I asked Goldberg about his art background and how he learned to work with all the different media he uses in collage. He made his first collages during a break before his senior year at Sarah Lawrence College, and only took studio arts classes that final year. The first collages also included pop culture pictures of men and cars that express sexual identity. His instructors at Sarah Lawrence said the backgrounds in the collages were too flat.  Goldberg said, although the criticism hurt, he managed to learn from it and his work improved.

He put together his own version of art school and took adult classes at Westchester Community College and the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NY.” He was in his 40s and consciously decided to never take criticism personally and always try to listen and learn. He studied sculpture, drawing, life drawing and painting, learned to make stained glass, then learned to make fused glass and explore transparent color layering (with Dorothy Hafner), He studied watercolor and printmaking, life drawing and etching, working with multiple print plates.

He said a fellow student introduced him to transparent image transfer – which ultimately changed how he makes collage. He loves building layers with color and multiple images and often adds mono printing above solvent based image transfer, or transparent acrylic paint as a final layer.

 

Mitchell Goldberg, Midnight Dream

The image above is titled “Midnight Dream” and is the last he finished among the three images. This work is 12” x 24”. The media is collage with acrylic and image transfer. The collage includes a torn monoprint. The background color behind the figures images is saffron yellow. The figures overlap in a design that moves horizontally. The artist added small areas of transparent green and red.

 

The Art of Image Transfer

Goldberg says he used more image transfer and less cut and pasted papers in the collages for this exhibition. He also varied the media in each work based on size. All the 12” x 24” panels feature a torn mono print with a solvent image transfer on it.   Every work that is 12” x 12” has an image transfer of a simple 3-piece or 4-piece collage layered with an old photograph and a layer of acrylic paint. The 20” x 16” pieces all feature image transfers of a figure drawing by the artist with added layers of image transfers and acrylic paint.

Goldberg likes working with image transfers because he can re-use the original image. He likes the depth that image transfers give by revealing what’s behind the top image and thinks color layering with image transfer is so beautiful because it  enhances the dreaminess of the vision while adding an abstract dimension to the work.

The artist also says he misses having the texture and aged quality of original papers, and will return to paper collage at some point in the future.

 

I asked Goldberg if there were artists who influenced or inspired him as a collage artist. He likes James Rosenquist and Robert Rauschenberg, the photographers Robert Frank, Gary Wingrand and Diane Arbus – because they knew how to observe the world. He loves works by the artist Kandinsky and early works by Miro. He said Pop Art, Dada and Surrealism are primary inspiration. Goldberg likes Gay artists such as Paul Cadmus and George Tooker because they brought emotion and real depiction of the human experience into their work.

Goldberg says he tries to bring a sense of irony and wit to his work. He is critical of some gay art today because the works are basically figure studies of perfect looking men and very idealized relationships. He adds: “I have been lifting weights since my early twenties, because I also want to look good.”

Meet the artist on Sunday, November 4th (2-5 pm) at the gallery reception. See the exhibition (Nov 1-25, 2018) during regular gallery hours: Thursday – Sunday, 12:30-5:30 pm. For information and gallery directions, call 914.674.8548. Visit Goldberg’s webpage at Upstream Gallery. Visit the artist’s website to see more works.

Lee Krasner

October 26, 2018

 

Lee Krasner – young artist

The image above is a photo of a young Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984). She looks tough and determined. She was born in Brooklyn, NY into an immigrant Russian Orthodox-Jewish family. Becoming an artist was something her family never expected, and Krasner was engaged as an artist throughout her long life. She belonged to the first generation of Abstract Expressionist painters. She is also known as the woman who married Jackson Pollock, and, in many ways, her reputation was overshadowed by his fame.

Lee Krasner was “rediscovered” by feminist art historians during the 1970s and lived to see the recognition she deserved. Today she is regarded as embodying the spirit of the 20thcentury American avant-garde. Her paintings, collages on canvas, and drawings are part of the permanent collections at major national and international museums, including the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, the Brooklyn Museum, NY, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, the National Gallery of Australia Sydney, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, Tate Modern, London and many others.

DRAWING

Lee Krasner, Seated Nude

The image above is titled Seated Nude (1940), 25×18 inches, drawing with charcoal on paper, collection: the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Krasner’s art training was thorough and rigorous. She attended the Cooper Union, the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design in New York, (1928-1932) where she mastered the fundamentals of drawing, painting and design. Following the Academy, Krasner studied with the influential German abstract artist Hans Hofmann and absorbed his theories about Cubism, Neo-Cubism, and Fauvism. She was inspired by Piet Mondrian’s grid and the way Matisse constructed collage.

During the Depression, she worked as a muralist for the Works Project Administration (WPA). She was an important member of the Artists Union and the American Abstract Artists, and was committed to social and political activism throughout her life.

Krasner created Seated Nude in 1940 about the same time she began to associate with the American Abstract artists. This drawing looks like part of the figure is erased,  and shows the remnants of Cubism. Krasner was experimenting with abstraction in a raw and evocative way.

30 years later, Krasner cut up many of her drawings and began to create with collage on canvas.

LITTLE IMAGE Series

 

Lee Krasner, Noon

The above image is part of the Little Image series done from 1946-1950. It’s titled Noon (1947) and is one of 31 works in the series. The design is all-over abstraction, and seems to be composed of innumerable little images that may represent a personal vocabulary. Swirls of paint surround daubs of paint. The paint is thick. Colors are tonal reds, blues, brown-green, pale yellows and warm whites.

At artnet.com, I read: “Krasner was moving toward a more color-saturated, almost pointillist approach that allowed color to take over for gesture as the expressive element in her work.” At the artstory.org, I read: “With these paintings Krasner expanded the visual vocabulary of Abstract Expressionism. Taking her cue from Pollock, she worked more directly from instinct, but painted in a state of controlled chaos.”

It’s possible Krasner named the series Little Images because she had to work in a small 2ndfloor bedroom in the home she shared with Pollock at the Springs (Long Island, NY). He had the barn to paint big.  Like him, she worked with canvas on a flat surface. She applied thick paint—sometimes directly from the tube—in rhythmic and repetitive strokes, giving equal attention to every inch of the canvas. We might ask the question: which artist was inspired by the other in terms of imagery? We know the difference was scale.

Robert G. Edelman wrote: “Krasner’s Little Image paintings were admired by fellow artists and critics when they visited Krasner and Pollock at the Springs. Krasner recalled that the art critic Clement Greenberg had stopped by, and spotting an early work from the series remarked, “That’s hot, it’s cooking.” Later, despite the remark’s possibly derisive double meaning, Krasner said, “I considered it a compliment.”

 

Lee Krasner, Untitled

The image above is Untitled (1949). It’s oil on composition board, 48×37 inches, and part of the Little Image series (gift of Alfonso A. Ossorio, permanent collection: the Museum of Modern Art). Colors are blue, green, cool white and pale pink-purple.

PAINTINGS

 

Lee Krasner, Gaea

The painting above is titled Gaea. It’s oil on canvas (1966), 5’ 9” x 10’ 6”, permanent collection: the Museum of Modern Art, Kay Sage Tanguy Fund © 2018 Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Lee Krasner was always drawn to nature-inspired imagery with organic forms – in this case –swirling paint in shapes that look like super-sized flowers. The painting Gaea was included in the huge 2017 MoMA exhibition titled Making Space: Women, Arts and Postwar Abstraction (April 15-August 13, 2017), and was located prominently in one of the first galleries in the show. It was especially dramatic because of its scale, brush-work and colors. Starr Figure co-curated the MoMA exhibition and wrote: “Krasner put her whole body into the brushstrokes that you see across the canvas…and abstract expressionism was all about personal expression through the gesture of painting.”

The painting was created in the barn on the property at Springs after Pollock died in 1956. The wall signage next to the painting read:  “…In the mid-1960s her work took on a spirit of free invention, embodied in broad, sweeping strokes of paint – quite different from her smaller, thickly painted, and tightly controlled canvases of the Little Image series of the late 1940s.” Gaea is named for the Earth goddess of ancient Greek mythology.

Here’s a link to the YouTube video interview with Starr Figura about the meaning of the title “Making Space.” – about making more space for women artists in the Museum’s programming, and how the women in the exhibition paved the way for more women artists to follow.

 

Lee Krasner, The Springs

The image above is titled The Springs (1964), oil on canvas, 43 x 66 inches, collection: National Museum of Women in the Arts, gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay, ©2012 the Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS).

This painting combines the vocabulary of circles, ovals, and chevron shapes that Krasner first developed in her “Little Image” paintings of the 1940s. The colors are earth greens, ivory white, and palest pink on an ivory white background.  The colors and interlaced forms suggest flowers in a wind-blown landscape.

Springs is the name of the village near East Hampton, Long Island, where Krasner and Pollock, moved in 1945. Krasner began using the small barn as her studio after Pollock died, and her works grew in size. After Krasner’s death in 1984, the house became the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center. Paint by both artists can be seen on the floorboards on the barn-studio.

CUT UP CANVAS COLLAGE

In the early 1950s Lee Krasner became frustrated with the quality of several of her works and began shredding the canvases. In her earlier days studying with Hans Hofmann, Krasner had become an avid fan of Matisse, and had experimented with collage. Inspired by Matisse and his cutouts, she started using her shredded paintings as raw materials for a body of powerful, emotive collages, transforming the shreds of her “failed” paintings into a radical new direction in her oeuvre.

 

Lee Krasner, Milkweed

The image above is titled Milkweed (1955), 82 x 57 inches, oil, paper and canvas collage on canvas, collection: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

Milkweed is a perennial plant, sometimes also called Butterfly flower.

Lee Krasner was criticized during her life because she destroyed and repurposed drawings and paintings into new works. Milkweed and other collages on canvas are the result.” Starting in 1952-53, she unstretched, slashed, tore and cut up canvases in a way that emphasized their edges, which are alternately jagged and frayed, sharp and keen. With Milkweeed, she added dark green lines to unite the fragments with a circular rhythmic pattern that contrasts with the vertical movement of thin white canvas strips rising from below.

In her book 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History, author Bridget Quinn writes: “It strikes me that the collages are Krasner’s most autobiographical works. What is not autobiography if it’s not selecting chunks of the past and artfully reorienting them in the present? Each collage was a work…ripe with her joys and sorrows.”

 

Lee Krasner, Imperative

The image above is titled Imperative (1976), 50 x 50 inches, oil, charcoal and paper collage on canvas, collection: the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, gift of Mr/Mrs Eugene Victor Thaw.

In this collage, Krasner integrated cut up charcoal drawings with cut up painted canvas. The shapes are hard-edge and triangular. The pattern is positive/negative with white triangular areas surrounded by dark charcoal drawings and painted canvas.

 

Lee Krasner, Burning Candles

The image above is titled Burning Candles (1955), oil, paper and canvas on linen, 58×39 inches, Collection: Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger, © 2015 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS).

This collage shows a rhythmic and vertical thrust with hard-edge cut shapes that mimic the shape of candles  and point to the top. The colors are natural-toned, soft browns, ochres, black, white and grey.

In her book titled Originals, American Women Artists, Eleanor Munro wrote “Lee Krasner was referred to by macho artists and art critics during her life as “Pollock’s wife who also paints.”

Krasner was always open to change and receptive to the possibilities for new directions in her work. In an interview, Munro asked the artist about her revisionist tendencies. Krasner said: I believe in listening to cycles.” She always trusted her preference for a connection to nature, and was always willing to wait for a return from a dead cycle to get started again.

With regard to her paper and canvas collages Krasner said: “Obviously I’m hauling out work (drawings) of 30 years ago. Obviously pulling that out. Dealing with it. Not ignoring, hiding it. I’m saying, here it is in another form. This is where I’ve come from: from there to here. It gives me a kick to be able to go back and pick up 30 years ago. It renews my confidence in something I believe. That there is continuity.”

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Some artists focus on one particular style so that almost any art lover can easily describe typical examples of their works. Other artists, however, purposefully and constantly evolve their style, refusing to be limited by one aesthetic approach. Lee Krasner epitomized this approach. To describe a typical Lee Krasner painting would be impossible, because her work was never typical. Multiple times over the course of her career Krasner completely redirected her approach to painting.

Although she is normally associated with the Abstract Expressionists, Krasner’sdesire to revise her aesthetic – or what she called “breaks” – led to her innovative Little Image series of the late 1940s, her bold collages of the 1950s, and her large canvases, brilliant with color, of the 1960s.

Krasner was “rediscovered” by feminist art historians during the 1970s and lived to see the recognition of her art and career, which continues to grow to this day.

 

 

Solo exhibition: October 4-28, 2018

the Upstream Gallery, 8 Main Street, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

 

I am pleased to write this interview about the artist Phyllis Famiglietti. She has a wonderful approach to the art of collage and will show 35 works in various media (October 4-28, 2018) at her first solo exhibition at the Upstream Gallery, 8 Main Street, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. Meet Phyllis Famiglietti at the gallery reception, Sunday, October 7th, 2-5 pm. Visit the Upstream Gallery during regular Gallery hours, Thursday to Sunday, 12:30-5:30 pm. For information and gallery directions, call 914.674.8548 or visit the Upstream Gallery website.

Collage, Collage, Collage

Phyllis Famiglietti started creating paper collage about 7 or 8 years ago. Prior to that, she worked a lot in photography and in digital collage. She is a video editor who moves images around in her day job. As a break from sitting and looking at a computer screen all day, she took up the art of paper collage and found it very appealing.  She says she loves the feeling of different papers in her hands and the stickiness of glue on her fingers.

 

Phyllis Famiglietti, Brandy Wine Creek

Famiglietti’s collages are typically small and there are various groups that will hang together in the exhibition. The largest collages are 24” x 20” and the smallest are 7” x 9”. The older works were based very much on the Polaroid photograph. The more recent works have broken free. The artist says she’s been exploring frames, grids and quadrants in new and exciting ways.

The image above is titled Brandy Wine Creek. It’s a collage with various papers, including reproductions of old maps, an old brown envelope, some random pieces of magazine cut-outs and colored paper. It’s 24×20 inches, and one of 35 works on view at the Upstream Gallery.

Famiglietti said Brandy Wine Creek is actually her most recent piece, and it’s interesting as a departure for her, because she did it while away in Maine this summer on a vacation. She said the vacation location was…”totally off the grid…no flush toilet, no running water, no electricity…and the papers in the collage are just a hodgepodge of what was on hand and available. She added: “It was a great challenge for me. I’m sticking with my quadrants, but I’m a lot more relaxed here…. letting shapes flow in and out of each other in an organic, free-flowing way“. She let the colors dominate in a way she’d never done before and thinks, “The environment in which I worked is so apparent in this piece.”

Hunt and Gather – Cut and Paste

Famiglietti cuts and pastes papers that she finds interesting in terms of image, color or texture. She says she loves going to flea markets and especially library sales where she can pick up cast-off books. She adds: “I also frequent construction sites where advertising posters are mounted on surrounding green painted plywood. I’ll judicially collect pieces of these posters and layer them into my work.”

 

Phyllis Famiglietti, Sociology

The image above is titled Sociology. It’s collage and the size is 16 x16 inches. Famiglietti says: “This work was done right after my Polaroid phase, and I think the grid and frames are informed by that previous work. There is a lot of layering (which is also an off-shoot of my video work) while what’s inside the frames is kept more to a minimum. “ She says she is fascinated with what time does to elements, and loves the feeling of peeled away layers of papers. Most of the pieces are from old sources, and sometimes include sanded paperback book covers. Some elements are from discarded hardcover books where the cloth is stripped off the cardboard.  The artist said she called this piece Sociology because the word “sociology” showed up on one of the elements (from a paperback book cover) and she thought it really fit the piece.

 

Phyllis Famiglietti, Rubbery Man Scent

The image above is a collage done on a book cover. It’s title “Rubbery Man-Scent” refers to text that is in the piece. Famiglietti says: “Pretty much all my pieces have names that appear somewhere in the text in that particular piece. I’m mostly using text as a visual element, though sometimes I do stray from that. Some papers in this work are vintage; some are from recent magazines; others are from book covers or the interiors of books. I try to use elements in ways that are unrecognizable from the original work itself. “

Famiglietti works in series in order to look at a particular set of materials in depth. She explored the Polaroid photograph for a period of time, experimenting with the relationship of what’s both inside and outside that iconic frame. The artist included works from the series “Massachusetts White Gentlemen” in the current exhibition. She recycled portraits from a book of historical political figures (all white men) and obliterated their faces with pieces of photos of engines taken at her car mechanic’s shop. The exhibition also includes small works (7” x 9”) from a series where she layered pieces of advertising posters with images from 1950’s Popular Mechanics magazines. The artist has another series that uses the inside of book covers as her canvas.

Famiglietti says: “I might start a work with an image or part of an image. Collage is a journey…. a rollercoaster with dips and spins, discovery, frustration, a puzzle, a fitting, a juxtaposition.” She asks: What am I saying…where am I going with this?  It’s a constant uncovering, like ripping off layers of myself…. reframing and re- contextualizing, an ongoing process of coming to terms with me…what was/is expected, taken and turned inside out and transformed into what is totally unexpected.“

Visit the exhibition (October 4-28, 2018). Read more about the artist here.

See more works by the artist online at the Upstream Gallery.

Lenore Tawney

October 1, 2018

 

Fiber Arts Pioneer, Collage and Assemblage Artist

I am writing about women artists I admire.

My recent post Blue Again was a tribute to the artist Louise Bourgeois. The first image in the post showed a massive steel sculpture of a spider (titled Maman) photographed against a brilliant blue sky, outdoors at the Guggenheim Museum in the Basque City of Bilbao in northern Spain. The post includes additional images with drawings and soft sculptures, made with recycled cloth that Louise Bourgeois cut into pieces and sewed piece by piece to build up volume. I think of the soft sculpture as 3D collage.

This post is about the artist Lenore Tawney (American, 1907-2007)

Lenore Tawney is widely credited as the pioneering spirit whose open-warp weaving redefined and helped shape the field of fiber art during the second half of the twentieth century. This post will include images of her large woven, open loom weavings and sculpture as well as her other media: drawing in pen and ink, drawing as weaving, mixed media assemblage with wood, wire and thread, collage and postcards that she began during the 1960s and continued to create throughout her long life.

Lenore Tawney in her Studio

The image above shows Lenore Tawney in her studio, at an industrial space located in the Coenties Slip area in lower Manhattan in New York City. The photo is dated 1958. Photo credit: David Attie. Tawney made huge fiber sculpture in this space, but, in this image, it looks like Lenore Tawney is working small. She is sitting on the floor, weaving with an improvised, open weave loom.

Lenore Tawney, Cloud Series VI

After 1977, Tawney created her “Cloud Series” with hand-knotted, shimmering linen threads woven into a linen superstructure and hung from the ceiling. The image above shows Tawney standing on a scaffold with a very large work titled Cloud Series VI. The size is 16’x32’x8’ and is dated 1981. This huge open weave installation was a commission and installed at the Frank J. Lausche State Office Building in Cleveland, OH. For the viewer, the experience is air and space. Imagine walking into a room with a fiber installation cascading down from the ceiling above you. Imagine that the installation is made with thousands of individually knotted shimmering linen threads. Photo: The Lenore Tawney Foundation. Read the chronology of her career at the Lenore Tawney Foundation website.

Lenore Tawney, Little River Wall Hanging

The image above is titled Little River Wall Hanging. It’s dated 1968 and was made with linen and wool. It’s 164 inches tall by 22 ½ inches wide. Little River Wall Hanging is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 2017 it was included in the large group exhibition titled Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction (April 15-August 13, 2017) at the MoMA. The exhibition included 100 works by 50 women artists created between the end of World War II and the start of the Feminist movement. All the works – including paintings, sculpture, photographs, drawings, prints, textiles and ceramics were drawn entirely from MoMA’s collection.  I wrote a review of the exhibition. Read it here.

 

Drawings with Pen and Ink, Linen, Thread, Paper and Wire

 

Lenore Tawney, Wings on the Wind

The image above is titled Wings of the Wind. It’s pen and ink on graph paper, 17×22 inches, and dated 1964. Lenore Tawney created many, many drawings in pen and ink and other media. I learned Lenore Tawney drew inspiration not only from the ancient weavers of Peru, but was also inspired by her study of 19thcentury patterns made on a Jacquard loom.The weaver in her appreciated the jacquard loom’s ability to produce complex compound patterns, and the artist in her was fascinated by its intricate cord system. In the 1960s she began a series of India ink drawings that “hover above the graph paper with a vibrating energy.” Read more at the American Craft Council website.

 

Lenore Tawney, Waters Above the Firmament

The image above is titled Waters Above the Firmament, 1976, 156 ½ x 145 ¼ inches, collection: the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s made with linen, warp-faced/weft-ribbed plain weave with discontinuous wefts, and includes 18th/19thcentury manuscript pages cut into strips, attached and painted with acrylic paint. The top and bottom are braided, knotted and cut warp fringe. This work is a large circle set into a square – a simple design, but the upper half of the circle, where the warps are made of paper and fabric and coated in blue paint, give it incredible weight. Tawney wove the circle with slits that open at regular half-inch intervals that emphasized a third dimension.

Lenore Tawney, Drawing in Air

In the 1990s, Lenore Tawney reinterpreted her ink drawings into 3D works, using linen thread. The image above is titled Drawing in Air XVII, 1998, Linen and Plexiglas. The size for this work is  48x48x24 inches.

 

Assemblage

Lenore Tawney, untitled (Arietta)

In the 1960s Tawney began to work with paper and found objects and created assemblage. The image above is untitled (Arietta), c 1967. It’s a mixed media box construction with feathers, wood and paper, 12 ¼ x 7 x 4 inches. Photo: courtesy the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York

Lenore Tawney’s assemblages often included an amazing assortment of birds and feathers, some literal, some with a talismanic presence. Often, actual eggs appear as actual objects.

Lenore Tawney, Even Thread Had a Speech

The image above is titled Even Thread Had a Speech, dated 1966, and made with wood, paper collage and string, 9×7 ½ x 2 ¾ inches, collection: Whitney Museum of American Art, gift of the Lenore Tawney Foundation. The threads, in straight lines, weave through the open-sided box construction and appear beyond the edges.

 

Collage

 

In the mid-1960s, Tawney began to create postcard-sized collages that she mailed to friends and family. For Tawney, mailing the postcards became an essential part of the collage-making process, and the cancelled postmark functioned as an important collage element that showed a record of a journey successfully made.

book-Lenore Tawney: Signs on the Wind

The image above shows the cover of a monograph about Lenore Tawney’s small collages titled Signs on the Wind, published by Pomegranate Communications Inc., Petaluma, CA, 2002. I own the book and recommend it for the wonderful essay by the art critic Holland Cotter and over 80 full-size images of her postcard collages, dated 1961-1990. Each image is a unique collage that will inspire admiration and creativity.

Lenore Tawney, Circle in a Square postcard collage

The image above is a collage postcard that’s included in the book. The postcard is addressed to Miss Tender at the shop Tender Buttons, 236 E 77, NY 28, NY. Tender Buttons was a repeat recipient of many of Tawney’s postcards that are reproduced in the book. This postcard shows a 1966 cancellation date stamp, and is embellished with neat, evenly spaced ruled lines in pen and ink . The design is both horizontal and vertical.  The image is a circle in a square. Tawney created the circle with vertical lines in pen and ink. The circle is superimposed over the  shape of a square made by the  lines in the collage. The text collage, written in French, extends beyond the top and bottom edge. There’s a 4 cent postage stamp with the image of President Abraham Lincoln. This collage drawing echoes the art of weaving with taut, parallel straight lines. It’s amazing that Tawney trusted that the postcard collage would arrive undamaged, and it did. Tawney mailed the postcards to family and friends – and she even sent one to herself, addressed in her late mother’s maiden name. The postcard collages were made mostly with papers, including photographs, newspaper clippings, magazine ads, charts, Tantric symbols, musical scores, her own drawings, and notes and manuscript pages with foreign text. The postcards are rich and dynamic with a range of themes from childhood to female sexuality, even spirituality – and can be read as treatises or as Valentines. We are lucky people saved them.

In the book essay, Holland Cotter says, “The attraction of the postcard collages is not their inscrutability but their accessibility, their fleet wit, their conceptual ingenuity, and their stimulating metaphoric play.”

 

CONNECTING THREADS:

I wanted to create a thread to connect two artists I admire: Louise Bourgeois (American, born in France, 1911-2010), and Lenore Tawney (American, 1907-2007). One thread is drawing. Both artists had a background in drawing and sculpture. Both artists used drawing to explore subjects throughout their lives.

Louise Bourgeois studied sculpture but used drawing to tell the stories of her life. FYI: Bourgeois started drawing while still a child. She worked at her family’s tapestry restoration business in France and drew in the missing parts in the damaged antique tapestries so they could be restored.

Lenore Tawney studied sculpture and drawing and then discovered tapestry weaving. Tawney created the “open warp” weaving technique, with fluid forms of textured yarns contrasting against transparent grounds of exposed warps, like a drawing floating in space. Tawney used the transparency as a sculptural negative space. Her approach was controversial at the time. She said: “All I did was weave the design and leave the rest of the warp unwoven. Why not? “

 

If you can, purchase the book Lenore Tawney: Signs on the Wind. Get it for the Cotter essay with images of her weavings, and for the full-size images of the postcard collages. Holland Cotter wrote: “Tawney’s work was considered heretical by orthodox craft adherents, but too “crafsy by the orthodox art world. Despite this arts/craft divide, Tawney found success as an artist.

 

I am glad her colleagues and friends saved the collage postcards.

 

STILL SO BLUE

July 8, 2018

 

My Favorite Color is Blue

I wrote about the color blue recently because it’s my new favorite color. My post included a lot of images by modern artists who work with the color blue, including Henri Matisse, Richard Diebenkorn, Vincent Van Gogh, and Andy Warhol. I included a link to an article in the Huffington Post titled Blue is the New Orange written by Katherine Brooks (12/6/16) with many, many art works where blue was the dominant color, including art by Degas, Picasso, Yves Klein, Monet, Renoir, Matisse Rothko and more.

 

Yves Klein IKB 241

Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962 is my inspiration for the color blue.  I would love to be able to do a painting with collage that is totally blue. See the image here by Yves Klein. He created his own acrylic paint that is called International Klein Blue (IKB). He worked with a paint dealer to create a matte version of French Ultramarine Blue paint. The color is electric.

 

Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1964

Andy Warhol did an almost totally blue flower painting. See it here – four flowers in electric blue on a black background with a few thin green lines as stems and leaves. It’s an acrylic and silkscreen print with pencil on linen. It has a simple title: FLOWERS (1964). This image was included in the Huffington Post article.

 

Getting to Be More Blue

 

Nikkal, Blue Triangles

The image nearby is my acrylic painting on canvas, just completed. Notice it’s standing on 2 containers (also blue), leaning against the wall in my studio.  My painting is not all blue, but getting there. I won’t change this one (I frequently re-paint finished paintings), but I have a feeling that as I do new paintings there will be more and more blue, and less and less of other colors. My goal is total blue like the artist Yves Klein. My painting is 48×48 inches square, and acrylic on canvas. It has a lot of sharp edges and I didn’t use tape for every outlined edge. My triangles are black, white, blue and gray. Some are a yellow tan color blending into white. The patterns are a play of advancing and receding geometric shapes that are competing for space. I’m still creating color relationships. I will title this painting Triangles in Blue, Grey, Yellow, Black and White.

 

True Blue Affinity

Blue is the most popular color in art, and is favored by men and women alike. Here’s another fact: two of the greatest modern artists – Henri Matisse and Richard Diebenkorn also painted with blue, and Richard Diebenkorn loved Matisse’s blue so much that he used the same blue. The color is Ultramarine Blue.

 

Matisse/Diebenkorn at SFMoMA

In 2017 there was an exhibition titled Matisse/Diebenkorn at the Baltimore Museum of Art (10/23/16-01/29/17). It travelled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (3/11/17-05/29/17). There’s an exhibition catalog with the same title. The images within the catalog are gorgeous. The image above shows two paintings. The one on the left is by Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954) and titled The Blue Window, 1913, oil on canvas, 51×35 inches (MoMA). The one on the right is by Richard Diebenkorn (American, 1922-1993) and titled Woman on a Porch, 1958, oil on canvas, 72×72 inches (New Orleans Museum of Art).

 

How Blue Are You?

I asked my students at the Pelham Art Center (Pelham, NY) to create a collage with painting and papers, and be inspired by the way Matisse and Diebenkorn used the color blue. I showed them images of paintings in the museum catalog. Their collages had too many colors and not enough focus on the one color I wanted: blue, so I asked them to do a second class project and we started with a solid blue painted background. Everyone taped their 14×11 inch Bristol substrate and applied blue acrylic to the entire paper background.  I helped them mix a blue color and they applied the paint with either a palette knife or a sponge roller. As soon as the paint dried, they added found collage papers from magazines or their own stash of papers. See four (4) collage paintings by students in my class Create with Collage below.

 

Jane Regan, collage

The image above is by Jane. You see the gorgeous blue back ground and the collage on top. Notice the shiny top additions. I think it’s cellphone over pasted papers. The work is 14″x11″ with papers, acrylic, and other media on paper.

 

Harriet Goldberg, collage

The image above is by Harriet. I flipped the image horizontal. I think it looks good. Notice the background is painted blue and there are a lot of collage papers. The work is 11″x14″ with magazine and painted papers, acrylic on paper.

 

Anne Haley Enright, collage

The image above is by Anne. She made the painted area smaller than 14″x11″ and square. You can see the blue acrylic in the center of the composition. Anne likes to extend the borders with collage. It’s a spiral design and has a lot of rhythm.

 

Paulette Coleman, collage

The image above is by Paulette. You can see the entire background is painted blue. She created a narrative collage with text and magazine cutouts with figures. There’s a lot of drama and personal story here.

 

I hope you enjoyed all the blue. Stay tuned. There will be more blue soon. Your comments are always welcome.