May 8, 2014
I used the phrase “Collage Artist Extraordinaire” to describe Ivan Chermayeff in my review of the exhibition ABOUT FACES (March 20-April 19, 2014) at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery at 531 West 26 Street, in NYC. Read it here.
Pavel Zoubok says: no art form expresses the character of the twentieth century and the contemporary moment with greater clarity and immediacy than the art of collage. The Gallery is the place to go if you are a fan. The exhibition calendar includes both historic and contemporary collage artists. Read more here.
I’ve been a fan of Ivan Chermayeff’s collages for years and years, but only saw reproduction in art magazines. ABOUT FACES included collage and assemblage (sculpture). Each wood assemblage included found wood and objects like toys, tools, river stones, sandpaper, and/or brushes. Two works included a found glove that became a face portrait.
My photo (above) shows the gallery installation with 3 wood assemblages by Ivan Chermayeff. Titles are: (left) Janus Head with Canoe Hat, (center) Portrait with Pincushion Cap, and (right) Young Person with Hairless Brush Head. I’ve included solo images (two views) for each sculpture below. All images are courtesy the Pavel Zoubok Gallery. Sculpture should be seen in person, where you can walk around and see different views. The front and back are sometimes very different in Chermayeff’s assemblage.
The image (above) is titled Janus Head with Canoe Hat (2000-2005), mixed-media assemblage, 23 ½ x 8 ½ x 8 ½ inches. Click on the image and enlarge it to see more detail. Look at the nose. I think it looks like the handle on a coffee mug, big enough for you to put your hand through. Notice the hat is actually a little carved wood canoe. Notice the lips on the mouth are wood and painted red. Look at his expression. I think he looks grumpy or is sulking. Read whatever you like into his expression.
The image (below) is a profile view of the same sculpture, and, when you look up, you see the bottom of the canoe on his head. I think the wavy blue painted wood on the side is shaped like a child’s drawing of waves in the ocean. You don’t see the waves in the image above, but you can see the shape better in the image below.
What’s in a name?
I checked Wikipedia for information about Janus – the ancient Roman god of doors, passages, endings and times (representing war and peace). FYI: The month of January is named for Janus. Janus is usually represented with two faces. I wonder if Chermayeff named his wood sculpture Janus because the sculpture includes part of an old wood door. Read more about the god Janus here.
He collects garbage like crazy.
I include a collage (above) titled Red Talker, 15×11 inches (1995). Chermayeff says he collects garbage like crazy. According to the Gallery press release, his collages include the stuff of everyday life: scraps of paper, stamped envelopes, tickets, photographs and other discarded oddments that become juxtaposed compositions of color and form. Chermayeff says: “A little spot, whether a postage stamp, a graphic mark, a letter of the alphabet, a splash of color becomes a nose, an eye or a mouth. In the right place, more or less, it becomes a face…that is both recognizable and rewarding. When a face is there, it has its own reality, whether recognized or not, much like strangers passing in the street.” Read Gallery comments here.
Notice the colors in Red Talker: black, white, red and a peachy-tan. The portrait is all torn and cut papers in geometric shapes: squares, rectangles, circles and triangles. He’s facing right, and wears a hat. He has a large white dot for an eye. His mouth is a torn red and white address sticker. See more gallery images here.
The image (below) is a front-facing view of Chermayeff’s mixed media assemblage titled Portrait with Pincushion Cap (2000-2005), 13 x 8 ½ x 3 inches. Notice the deep grain in the wood and how the artist used smooth round white river stones for eyes. The stones are different sizes. The larger one faces vertical and the smaller one faces horizontal. The mouth is wood painted red. Ears appear on the side of the rectangular head as semi circles painted black. The pincushion cap (painted silver and blue) is another toy wood canoe sitting across the top of his head.
The image (below) is the rear view of Portrait with Pincushion Cap. Click on the image to enlarge it. Notice the rough surface texture in the wood in this view. There’s a deep recess gouged into the wood. I see a different face. The eyes are still white river stones, but they look tiny. The mouth is part of a negative space so it looks like his mouth is open. The “nose” is a rosy red blobby shape stuck into the gouged surface. The ears are gone, replaced with a solid black band of wood with rounded ends and now looks like a hat. The toy wood canoe (pincushion) sits on top. I think he looks like a drunken Russian sailor or an old Viking. It’s another Janus with two faces.
Two images (below) are front and side views of the mixed media assemblage titled Young Person with Hairless Brush Head, 24 x 15 ½ x 4 ½ inches (2000-2005). Notice Chermayeff added wood dowels for this portrait’s 2 arms. The Head is an irregular shaped rectangle. It’s an old hairless brush with 27 holes in 3 vertical rows. There’s a painted red wood dowel planted across the top of his head and a painted red block projecting between his legs. The wood figure looks like he’s wearing cut-off pants. His feet are thin black metal rods that run down to a square metal base. What do you see? I see a portrait of a young boy. Do you think the sculpture is innocent and childlike? I think maybe not.
Ivan Chermayeff’s fine art collages and assemblage sculptures have been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally. His next exhibition will be in the UK. He is best known as a designer and illustrator. With Tom Geismar, he founded the design firm Chermayeff & Geismar (1957), and the logos they’ve designed are recognized worldwide.
FINAL THOUGHTS: See it in Person
In my previous post, I wrote you have to see Chermayeff’s assemblage sculpture in person and walk around to view the work from every angle. I hope the additional images here gave you more information. Please add your comments below. Do you like this artist’s mixed media assemblage? Do you prefer the collages? Do you think assemblage is 3D collage?
November 8, 2013
We haven’t got enough PAPER
I teach a collage class at the Pelham Art Center in Pelham, NY. We have a new collage project each week. Almost every project has paper as the primary media.
We are half way through the fall term and have run out of magazine papers – our primary source for collage. I supplied the magazines at the beginning of the class term, and the students have depleted the supply. We need more magazines.
I would like the students (or a donor) to replenish the supply. I don’t want junk magazines. Cheap paper is a waste of time. It’s very hard to create collage with cheap paper. It curls when you apply glue. It’s hard to cut and tear. It doesn’t hold up over time. It looks cheap.
I want students to work with quality magazines papers that are printed with rich color, offer strong graphic design, and use creative text. Replacing the ArtForum magazines would cost me much more than I want to spend. I would like every student to donate or find a donor neighbor. So many people toss away magazines or put good magazines into recycling bins. Collage artists recycle. We need good magazines.
Magazines I like include art, photography, internet, home decor, fashion, garden design, nature and more. The paper quality is important. ArtForum, ArtNews and Art in America have good paper. I like Vogue, Elle, Elle Design, W and Interview magazine. National Geographic is excellent for paper quality, color, nature and animal images.
I will ask my friends and neighbors for donations. I would like my students to do the same.
I’m a snob for good paper. In my own collages, in addition to magazine papers, drawings, and my painted papers, I use artist hand-made imported printmaking papers because I love the range and contrast of whites. A lot of my white papers go in as the background layer in a collage.
Good Paper is Expensive. Good paper makes a Good Collage.
Another Way: Create Our Own Papers for Collage
In recent class projects we created large collage papers with multiple small magazine papers. See the first image – a grid collage above. It’s a substrate for a figure collage. In another class, we created a crazy quilt collage with overlapping patterned papers. See my sample image below in red, black and white. I will add another layer.
In a third class, we created a background collage for a landscape. We used pieced papers from a lot of different magazines.
I asked the students to keep the originals and reproduce multiple copies in black and white and color. The copies become the resource media for additional collages: as collage paper and as a paper substrate (bottom layer). Papers can be reproduced from the original as needed. If the original collage is copied digitally, it can be reproduced in a copy shop in very large format. You can play with the image and color in PhotoShop.
I like to include drawing with collage. See the 3rd image above that I made on artist paper and stamped all over with a bird pattern. I cut and paste small sections whenever I want line drawing in the collage.
I included two images that are computer scans of a rug (advertisement) from a design magazine. I like the diamond pattern and needed one to be positive (black on white) and one to be inverse (white on black).
4 Goals for the Class
Create projects that create (generate) papers. Create projects that repurpose and embellish papers. Discuss how to sort and organize collage media. Discuss why it’s important to collect, create, reproduce and build inventory for collage – because it saves time and money, it makes your media personal (you can pick the colors you like), and it’s much better to have all your papers available when you are ready to work .
Please add your comments and suggestions on how to hunt and gather materials for art projects. Thank you for sharing.
April 26, 2013
I exhibited original collage paintings at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show at Pier 94 in NYC from March 21-24, 2013.
I planned my booth (M135) and designed it to be all about bright colors – hot pinks, warm reds, greens, blues, darks and whites to make the colors ping.
Every piece of art – every painting and collage that I hung in the booth was selected for its color in order to attract an audience. And it did.
The 2 images below are installed as a diptych – 2 works hung together as one. They are titled Musical Notes 1 and 2.
The work on the left is a painting in acrylic on canvas, 24×24 inches. The work on the right is a collage with acrylic painted papers on a 24×24 inch wood panel. My studio practice is mainly collage, but I love to paint so some works are paintings and some works are painted paper collage. The image above was taken by Marcy Michaud. She wrote a blog about the show and included my image.
When I do painted paper collage, I paint papers first, and then, when the paint is dry, I play with cut paper blocks and organize them into grid patterns. I almost always work with a grid. Sometimes I change the size and shape of the papers as I make the collage. Sometimes I paint back into the papers after they are glued down. The color relationships are the most important part of each work.
The images below are 2 collages with painted papers and assorted magazine papers, framed size 13.5″x16″. The works are titled Color Game Hidden Spaces (top) and Color Game Green & Red (bottom). They were installed on a side wall in my booth.
On the opposite wall, I hung a horizontal framed collage I titled DNA. See the image below. I want people to be attracted to the power of color. It’s painted paper collage on paper, framed: 22″ x29.5″, 2012.
I was asked – why did I title the collage DNA? Answer: The color blocks made me think of uncurled strands of DNA. A little bit. My approach to naming the art was very unscientific. Someone said: DNA would only show in 4 colors. My collage had more than 4. I had 3 greens, 2 blues, a red-purple, a reddish brown and several yellows.
I checked out images of DNA online and learned that the DNA molecules are paired chemicals – hydrogen bonds given the letters A,T, G and C (A pairs with T and G pairs with C). The letters stand for adenine-thymine and guanine-cytosine. Here’s more information…
See the image below (image courtesy the Internet). It’s an uncurled strand of DNA that does look a little like my collage.
I know my collage DNA included too many colors – but I love color.
I found a link to a letter from Francis Crick to his son Michael explaining how he (Crick) and Jim Watson discovered and built a model of D.N.A. It’s a lovely hand-written note from a father to a son. Read more…
VARIETY IS IMPORTANT
People want to see variety, especially at a trade show. So I included about 30 additional unframed works for all the people who visited my booth to look at and hold.
I tucked these smaller unframed collages into 11”x14” clear vinyl slipcases and placed them in an art bin freestanding on the floor. Each vinyl slipcase was numbered to match a price list with titles, image sizes and media for each work.
Many works in the bin combined printmaking, drawing and collage.
The image below is titled Random Squares in a Grid 2 (Brown & White Stripes). It’s collage with assorted papers and acrylic on paper, 11.5″ x 11.5″, 2011.
The image below is titled Random Squares in a Grid 7 (Azo Yellow). Its a collage with assorted papers over painted paper, 11″ x 12″, 2011.
It pleased me that people took time to handle the unframed works. People like to touch. I took the works out of the slipcases so they could see and touch the surfaces.
The image below is a collage of colorful striped papers on top of a silkscreen print card (the card is a print from an original drawing). I like to collage over hand-made cards. The paper is fine printmaking quality, folded like a card, 8″ x 7″, 2013.
The 2 images below are 2 more small collages on top of hand-made cards on printmaking paper, folded, 8″ x 7″, 2013. The cards were very popular at the show, and priced to sell.
It was a good thing that I included the variety I did. Many people loved the pinks and reds of the framed works hung on the walls. Many people were interested in the variety of different works in the art bin.
Please visit my website to see 28 images that were at the show. Click on each image to enlarge and get a better view of the detail and collage layers.
THE WORK CONTINUES
Follow-up is so important after the trade show closes. I am still contacting designers, architects and others, sending information and image files they’ve requested.
A trade show offers incredible opportunities. The networking is amazing.
Please contact me if you want more information. I am happy to answer your questions about how to organize work for exhibit in a large show like the Architectural Digest Home Design show. My booth was located in the “MADE” section with more than 150 designers, artists and craftsmen – from lighting, fine crafted furniture, photography, sculpture and fine art paintings and collage. I think I will participate in the show again next year.
I will probably play with painted paper collage in the studio, and explore the idea of DNA paired as blocks. I am intrigued with mixing art and science. Do you think art and science work well together? Many people do. Thank you for reading and for your comments.
February 19, 2013
Thursday, Feb 14 was Valentines Day. I hope everyone was able to share the love.
I was in NYC that day walking on Fifth and Madison Avenues from Grand Central Terminal to 34th Street. All the shops, department stores, and restaurants had red heart-shaped helium-filled balloons and red flowers in tubs in their windows or just outside on a sidewalk table.
People were walking hand in hand. Some were carrying flower bouquets to take to the office or home. I saw a little boy holding flowers wrapped in clear plastic. He held the flowers in one hand and held his father’s hand in another. I imagine he was bringing flowers home to his mother.
NYC was one big Valentine.
The image below is one of four collages I am sharing in this blog. All four images are titled Barneys because the collages exist in a Barneys New York shoe and boot catalog.
I received the catalog in the mail, and thought it was a perfect way to recycle consumer media with collage. The catalog is still a work in progress. I sometimes show the catalog to my students when I discuss how important it is to recycle postcards, catalogs, books and junk mail. It’s so easy to add images to existing backgrounds. And the paper is free.
Being in NYC on Valentines Day made me think about sharing the love, and that made me think about important blog advice from a great source – Alyson B. Stanfield and her Art Biz Blog. She offers great tips on marketing (and more).
I’m an expert at collage and want to share my ideas about the art of collage. In 2009 I started to write my blog. I was a newbie at blogs.
The 1st lesson was titled Who I am Writing For. I wrote about a friend (Sylvia) who loves design and creates jewelry. Sylvia says I should include more personal content. If you want to read the blog, here’s a link to that post…
The 6th lesson was titled “Cure Yourself of Blog Envy” and asked us to find blogs that inspire us – in my case – artist’s blogs where the content and images are presented beautifully.
I included a link to Gwyneth’s Full Brew. The artist writes “… I am documenting the intersection of art-making and art-seeing, daily life in New York City and…my drawing surface of choice since 2007 is the cardboard coffee cup.” Gwyneth Leech has had incredible exhibition success with her up-cycled coffee cup installations. She also takes wonderful photos of NYC and documents great places for a cup of tea or coffee.
At Blog Triage, I learned the best blogging serves your reader and includes links to useful information. The course included 20 assignments. Assignment #10 was titled “Show Some Link Love” – about including good links.
I always remind myself to share the links and share the love.
The image below is another one of four collages titled Barneys pasted inside the catalog. One page is about night and the other page is about day. The red lips are a huge kisser.
Sending comments is another way to share the love.
I got email recently (Feb 10, 2013) from Douglas Beaudry. He has a blog titled The Bearing Edge and designs and sells skate-influenced custom jewelry (wrist cuffs made with leather fashioned with recycled derby and skateboard bearings) – really cool.
He commented on an old blog that I posted November 30, 2010 in which I asked and answered a question.
Question: How Are the Best Blogs Like a Great Collage?
Answer: The best blogs are good looking, engaging, multi-media, explore new ideas, and like the best art, invite you to share the experience!
That’s my concept for really good collage. Collage is layered.
Douglas Beaudry commented: What a great blog post and certainly served to clear my brain a little bit.
I thanked him for the compliment. I don’t know how my post cleared his brain.
I re-read the blog How Are The Best Blogs…. Basically – it included a lot of links and was all about sharing links.
The original blog included a link to the artist Robert Rauschenberg who had an exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in NYC. I included a link to a Nov 26, 2010 NY Times Holland Cotter review of the exhibition. Both links are repeated here. The Gagosian Gallery link connects to works by Rauschenberg. The NY Times link is so well written it is still valuable to read. Robert Rauschenberg is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. He has influenced so many artists who followed.
The Barneys 4 collage seen below is in black and white and in color over a background that turned from amber yellow to bronze. I used magazine images that were printed in color and black and white. The models are a mix and match of men and women. I wanted the focus on the eyes. They are looking at me and you.
If you think you want to update or improve your blog (or want to start to blog), I recommend the self-study Blog Triage workshop. Check it out… There are so many ways to do a blog, depending on the audience you are writing for.
Following are comments about the media I use.
My substrate (background for the collage) in these 4 works was a high fashion Barneys New York catalog I got in the mail. I wish I could get more. I only got one.
I added text and line drawings because I love words, letters and graphic patterns and love to mix drawing, pencil, ink and printed media.
I thought about how to marry the old image with the new image and how the content changed with the overlays.
I thought about how the 2 pages had to work together and how all the pages had to work as you leafed through the catalog.
Collage is about juxtaposition.
I love juxtaposing images and making it into a commentary on our consumer culture. I wanted the images to become edgy.
Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments. If you have questions about collage, you can email me.
January 17, 2013
Making art is a habit you cultivate. It’s a good habit and very important for artists.
But you need a proper space that’s dedicated and a place that makes you feel inclined to work.
I’ve had studios in my home and outside my home. Sometimes it’s more convenient to work from your home. Sometimes it’s better to separate yourself from home and work in a space dedicated to just making art.
My current studio is a dedicated space with worktables, sink, bookshelves, storage cabinets, my easel, printing press and flat files in one room with overhead fluorescent lights, and an east-facing window. I’ve been in the studio, located in New Rochelle, NY at Media Loft for 5 years and I’ve improved my studio space over the years. Media Loft is a great space for artists. We organize open studio events and have a first floor lobby gallery.
The image above is my worktable covered with papers, paints and tools. When I’m working it gets messy.
Notice the paint jars in the center of the table. I bought the jars in a retail stores that sells everything you need for storage. I needed to store paints that I custom mixed. Notice the painted canvas sitting in front. It was a clean piece of canvas and I’m using it as a blotter for excess paint from my palette knife. I swipe the paint onto the canvas and I think this work surface will become a collage element in a future work.
My table gets cluttered with painted papers as I work, and then I clean it up and organize the materials to make room to continue or start over on a new project. When people visit for open studio events, the space gets cleaned up totally, and people think I work that way. You can see that I don’t.
See the painting and collages on the wall behind the worktable. I just had a hanging art system installed in the studio and hung my art as if my studio is a gallery. It looks good when people visit. I also want to look at the painting and collages on the walls. The hanging art is there to inspire me to continue to work on the Metro Series. I am exploring color and want to see the colors I’ve used in front of me. The Metro Series is about geometry. It’s constructed abstraction. Geometry is my reality.
Every artist needs a dedicated space – no matter how small.
It’s easy to get to work when you have a dedicated space where ongoing projects can be left in progress. It means you can leave at the end of the day and return the next day and everything is set out ready for work as soon as you arrive.
But, many artists work in improvised spaces. They make the space work for them.
In a recent class I teach at the Pelham Art Center, a gifted student who’s an artist brought up the subject of her studio space problem.
She is trying to decide the best place to work. She can set up a workspace in her home basement or in her kitchen. The basement is bigger, but is also a shared space for family and TV.
The kitchen would be a happier place – she said it felt right even though it was the kitchen.
I asked if she could find a way to store all her art materials, glue and collage tools in the kitchen.
I don’t know whether the kitchen is vintage or modern, but, no matter what the style, there are new or vintage pieces that could be used for storage (or maybe there is a piece of furniture somewhere in the house that could move into the kitchen).
I found the above image online. I asked for images of antique wood flat file cabinets. I got a huge number of images, including old metal flat files (probably less expensive than new).
Similar pieces can be found at ebay or etsy.com or go scout at a neighborhood antique shop, a tag sale or country auction. Maybe you already own something like this. It’s a beautiful piece to store your beautiful papers.
The image above is suitable for an office or contemporary styled room. It’s readily available if you look for metal storage files or boxes.
If there isn’t floor space, is there a place to set a portable writing desk or stack storage boxes on top?
The image above appeals to me. It’s vintage and could hold postcards and small booklets for projects in progress. I would leave it on top of a cabinet or counter in the kitchen as a constant reminder of your creative time.
I’ve seen portable desks (writing desks) with storage compartments. Everything is tucked away and safe.
The image above shows 2 storage boxes to store collage papers, scissors, pencils, pens, etc. The boxes come in so many sizes and range in prices and are available online and in retail stores. They look fine stacked and could be stashed in a cupboard, on top of a cabinet or counter. I would keep glue in an upright position inside a cabinet.
Taking Out and Putting Back Can be a Good Thing
There’s a benefit to taking out materials every time you begin to work on a project because you handle all the media and see things anew. When you return the materials to the storage container, you organize again, preparing for the next time you will work. You can write notes on what your next steps will be so you are ready to begin when you return.
I suggested to my student that she could organize her materials (papers) and place them into extra-large plastic zipper bags, sorted by project. Depending on how the kitchen is organized, the bags could be placed in a kitchen drawer, or into a freestanding stack of drawers on wheels, or into a crate.
I have stored papers in plastic page separators organized into 3-ring binders. I sorted the papers by color, texture, pattern and image. I place the binders on a shelf with art books (for reference) next to my stack of magazines that are a resource for more collage papers. My favorite magazines are ArtForum and Art News.
Check out ebay or etsy.com (storage and organization) for vintage storage pieces if that’s your taste. Or go online and locate sources for new types of storage – boxes, containers, flat files, storage drawers, etc.
It seems like everyone is into storage solutions today.
What solutions have you created? Please share how you’ve organized your personal art project space. Thanks for sharing.
November 15, 2012
I love to use text as a main element in collage. The text are lines and then I add drawing.
I find text in art magazine and also in books. I don’t like to tear pages from books, but don’t mind pulling pages from magazines. The magazines are a great resource for collage papers, and some art magazines have a lot of pages.
When I find text with a large typeface, I cut the text horizontally so the letters are split into long strips, and the words are not easy to read.
Recently the class I teach at the Pelham Art Center asked to explore using magazine pages with text for collage.
I brought the image (seen below) to the class. It’s a small collage. The horizontal strips are all split and layered magazine text.
The images below are 2 of my pen and ink drawings with collage from the Strata Series. See all 16 images in the series…
The Strata series is about layering, with a reference to landscape, and a little bit of play.
NOTES ON THE CLASS PROJECT
I suggested the class cut and tear the text into thin horizontal strips. Cutting would create hard edges. Tearing would create soft edges. I suggested they organize the papers into visually compatible groups in related colors. I suggested that some strips should touch or overlap.
I shared beautiful black, silver and white printed paper with wavy lines, and showed them how to create a soft, torn edge by using a brush dipped in water that made it easy to tear the paper. The reverse side of the hand-made paper is a beautiful dense black.
I shared pages of printed text and gave them copies of magazines to look for more text.
The images below are by the class members. It was a challenging project and I think everyone was pleased with the collages they created in one evening class session.
Do you think the collages look like landscape strata? Do you like the text they selected? Are you inspired t0 make collage with text?
August 9, 2012
Extraordinary Collage Artist
I led a collage workshop at the Newark Museum Sunday, August 5, 2012. It was titled Conjur Woman: Portrait in Collage.
The workshop was organized in conjunction with the exhibition at the Museum (on view through August 19, 2012) titled Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections that travelled from the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The exhibition celebrates the life and work of Romare Bearden (African-American, 1911-1988) and the centennial of Bearden’s birth. The exhibition includes 80 works in collage, printmaking, and painting.
10 talented people participated in the workshop. They had all seen the exhibition and many wanted to take the workshop because they were so inspired by the art they saw. See images of their work and read their comments below.
Romare Bearden is considered one of the greatest collage artists in modern history.
I spoke briefly about his Conjur Woman imagery and some of the materials Bearden used. I showed a reproduction of the image above.
It’s titled Conjur Woman (1975) and is a collage of various papers with paint, ink and surface abrasion on wood, 46×36, in the collection of the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio.
I brought decorative and hand-made papers for everyone to share. As soon as they saw the papers, they wanted to start making collage. I told them all of the amazing papers were purchased at NY Central Art Supply in NYC.
I brought handouts about Romare Bearden and his Conjur Woman image. I said he had three artist strategies: he worked with photographic and photomechanical reproductions; he selectively appropriated canonical images from Western painting; and he reworked the images to represent 20th century African-American subjects and identity.
I said Bearden’s imagery is about visual juxtaposition, and it’s important to notice how he mixed fragments to create a whole new image. I said: notice the eyes and the size of the hands. Notice how he incorporated images of African masks.
I brought handouts about the history of collage, and told them collage began in the Far East in the 12th century, and the first known collages are from Japan. Picasso and Braque are credited with the invention of modern collage (1912-1914). Read more…
Many people brought their own photos, reproductions and collage materials to the workshop.
I brought magazines (Vogue, Vanity Fair, Oprah, W, and ArtForum) and everyone shared.
I did a quick demonstration on how to tear papers and cut images from magazines. For example – if the image is part of a page in a magazine: cut or tear out the whole page, then cut around the image and make the paper smaller and easier to handle, then cut precisely around the image. It sounds like it’s an extra step and takes longer. It’s actually almost as fast, and easier. I also showed how to tear with a ruler. You can move the ruler as you tear against it, and use the ruler to create a shape or curve.
I showed how to get a white edge on torn paper by tearing the paper toward you.
I showed how to use a brush dipped in water to create a wet line when you are working with hand-made paper (the line can be straight or curved). You can hand-tear against the wet line, and create a soft edge. Some people really liked the soft, furry edge.
Everyone began to locate images in magazines to add to their other papers. I handed out the substrate (Bristol medium weight paper) for the bottom layer. Some people brought their own substrate.
I asked everyone to start their collage with a background layer of solid grey and colored papers that I brought. I talked about how Bearden used geometric shapes in horizontal and vertical designs.
I did a quick glue demonstration – please read about my process for gluing and getting papers to lie flat without bubbles and glue outside the edges.
I always say it’s important to work with the right glue and the right weight paper. I brought white PVA (polyvinyl acrylic) glue.
I discussed how it is difficult to work with thin magazine papers and how they curl when you apply glue. I always recommend photocopying the papers to make them medium weight so they are easier to handle.
The workshop started at 10:00 am and continued through 4:00 pm. Everyone wanted to work through lunch. Only a few took a lunch break.
I took pictures of people at work that showed their hands. At the beginning of the workshop I spoke about how important hands were in Bearden’s art.
The above image by Bearden is titled Of the Blues: Carolina Shout (1974). It’s collage and acrylic and lacquer on board, 27×51 inches, Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina.
The image below is Abena Busia at the workshop organizing papers for her collage. The image of the hand became an important element in her work.
Pictures of Pictures
About an hour before the workshop ended, people walked around to look at what others were doing. I took digital images with my cell phone and others took pictures also.
After the workshop, I emailed everyone and asked people to write a few sentences about the theme of the collage they made. I am still receiving their comments, so not all are included here.
The image and comments below are by Pam Wright.
“My piece (titled Protection, Direction) was inspired by Bearden’s “Southern Collections” themes. It was a reflection of the experience of family life in the African-American community. The role of the conjure woman both past and present was one of protection and direction. It included pictures of my family as well as those of the past. It incorporated themes such as rural life, farming, cotton, poverty and migration. Pattern and movement were accomplished by the use of textured papers torn and cut, postcards, burlap and paint.” (Pam Wright)
The image and comments below are by Abena Busia.
She emailed the image (above) the day after the workshop and wrote: “I was determined to finish, and when I found the right hand, I found I could.” She calls the piece Conjuring Mama. It is a memorial to her beloved mother.
The image below shows Carol Masi at work on her collage.
She wrote: “The theme of my collage is based on spiritual images. I was drawn into the Saints when I visited the Byzantine Museum in Nicosia, Cyprus. I have been inspired by them ever since. I was so moved by the Bearden exhibit. It inspired me to take the workshop which I thoroughly enjoyed.” (Carol Masi)
The image below and comments are by Martha Wagner.
She wrote: “With this collage (titled Conjur Woman), I strictly decided to reproduce Bearden’s style by using only photos of women with skewed body parts that didn’t match, with the underlying picture of a woman’s face. Eyes of an animal, a hand not belonging to a woman, etc. is the way I made this artwork. I also used cloth pieces for clothing for one of the women and for a hand holding a pen. (Martha Wagner)
The image below and comments are by Gail Mitchell.
She wrote: “The title of my collage is Teenager’s Dream Come True. It is a reflection of my art life: 3 of my quilts, photos of me taken by my boyfriend (currently my husband of 44 years of marriage), my love of beads, embellishments, inks and stamps and being BLACK & PROUD and celebrating my life!” (Gail Mitchell)
The comments below and image are by Mansa Mussa.
Mansa Mussa wrote: “The singer is Andromeda Turre, singer, songwriter, model, fashionista, beauty… I took that photo of her performing at a South Orange, N.J. jazz performance this summer. I met her a couple of weeks before when she performed at the Newark Museum’s Jazz in the Garden festival with her mother, cellist Akua Dixon.
The narrative of this Conjour Woman is that she’s a siren who uses her voice on-stage to entice the male musicians to perform at the highest level. Her cohorts are his sisters who dance on her belt and on her skirt, creating a fantastic aural and visual spectacle that compels the musicians to focus…She is backed on saxophone, the musical instrument most like the human voice, by another one of her sisters. This figures is the musical director of the ensemble and the only female musician.
The figure at the top right is her younger sister, studying the elder, and waiting for her moment on the stage.” (Mansa Mussa)
More Information about Romare Bearden
The Newark Museum held a symposium on July 16, 2012 with guest speakers, all experts on the life and art of Romare Bearden. I purchased the exhibition catalog and an excellent book of essays titled: Romare Bearden in the Modernist Tradition (2008, Romare Bearden Foundation, New York).
I recommend the book for those who want to learn more about the artist. The essays are excellent.
Visit the Bearden Foundation for images and more information about the artist and upcoming programs and exhibitions.
Read about Bearden’s life at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery website.