Theme and Variation

nikka,, collage 1

nikkal, collage 1




This year, I decided to cut and paste red, green and blue papers into a collage for a holiday e-card. The image nearby is the first collage I created. Notice there are soft edged outlines in pink, yellow and light blue, created with oil pastel. This collage didn’t make the cut for the e-card. The design wasn’t as open as I wanted.

I made 3 color copies of the original collage. One by one, I cut and pasted each color copy and reassembled the pieces. One collage became 3 collages. I wanted the right combination of curvy, overlapping shapes and open spaces in between. I wanted the collage more vertical.  See the 2nd collage image nearby.

nikkal, collage version 2

nikkal, collage version 2



Version 2 is more vertical. I added cut circles and half circles in contrasting colors – blue on green, red and green on blue – and glued the papers into the collage on top of the strips.

I still didn’t love the 2nd version of the collage  because there wasn’t enough white space in the design.

I cut up another color copy of the original collage and glued the strips down. See the image below.





nikkal, collage version 3 unglued



Notice version 3 of the collage nearby is unglued. Notice the strips of white paper. This time, before I glued the papers down, I took a photo because I wanted to remember where the paper strips were placed. You can see that the papers are not attached.






nikkal, collage version 4

nikkal, collage version 4

Here is version 4. I glued down the papers, but they moved – they always move in the process of lifting the papers to apply glue. The 3rd collage looks different from the unglued version.

I posted the collage image with a holiday greeting on Facebook and got a great response.People loved the colors and the design.  I’m emailing the image as a holiday greeting to friends and family who may not be on Facebook.

I still have the first original collage and can make more color copies for more variations. Collage is unending. That’s ok.

I have a new project: theme and variation with cut and reassembled curvy paper collage. I want to do this on a larger scale. Paintings can become quilts.

I’m paying attention to colors, connections and interior spaces.




The inspiration for this project came from seeing an exhibition this summer at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams, MA. It’s a converted factory building complex and one of the largest centers for contemporary, visual art in the United States. It’s a favorite destination for me for a summer get-away.

I walked through all the first floor galleries this trip tot MASS MoCA, then walked through all the 3 levels of galleries showing works by the artist Sol Lewitt, then walked up a tall industrial stairway into a 2nd floor gallery and saw large paintings by Sarah Crowner. She’s a Brooklyn-based artist. Her exhibition also included ceramic tiles installed on platforms you walked on to get close to the paintings hung on the wall. I was inspired.

Sarah Crowner says she treats her paintings like a collage. I was smitten.


Sarah Crowner, cut and sewn paintings

Sarah Crowner, cut and sewn paintings

The image nearby is from the Mass MoCA website: Sarah Crowner – Beetle in the Leaves (summer 2016). Try to image the scale and the industrial background. The space is huge.  Read more about the Mass MoCA exhibition here.

Sarah Crowner says this sewn painting is inspired by Sophie Taeuber Arp (Swiss, 1889-1943), a multi-media, applied arts, performance artist and textile designer also associated with the Dada art movement. Read about her here.

The Mass MoCA website says: Sarah Crowner mines the legacy of abstraction and treats art history itself as a medium to be manipulated—sampling, collaging, and rearranging existing images to create new forms. Her practice—which includes ceramics, tile floors, sculptures, and theater curtains—centers around sewn paintings she stitches together with visible stitching functioning as both line and surface. Her works are large.


Sarah Crowner, new paintings in the studio

Sarah Crowner, new paintings in the studio

I found an interview with Sarah Crowner (ArtForum, 9/05/11) where she said she’s always using art history as a medium, cutting it up and trying to reengage it.

Click the link and read the interview here. The image nearby is from the online ArtForum interview and shows a view of Sarah Crowner’s studio and new work.



Your comments – please

Are you inspired to reassemble your art? Do you make the trip to MASS MoCA? Would you cut up a painting and make it into a collage?


Happy HolidaysMerry ChristmasHappy New Year.




Artist, collagist with painted papers, author, and blogger

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Do you use PINTEREST?

I’m passionate about Pinterest because it’s so visually inspiring.  I collect Pinterest images for the collage classes I teach. I design collage projects inspired by Pinterest images, and encourage my students to visit my “boards” online.

Julia Child quote

Julia Child quote

The image above – a quote by Julia Child – says: “Find something you’re passionate about AND stay tremendously interested in it.” That’s good advice for a fulfilling, creative life. I was drawn to the pin immediately for the words and also for the white on black design. It’s pinned to a board titled black and white that includes paintings, drawings, sculpture and more by great contemporary and 20th century artists. See images here. Join Pinterest if you aren’t a member. My last post – CHILDREN MAKE ART – was about an after-school workshop project with cut and pasted papers at the Williams Elementary School (Mt. Vernon, NY). I found the sunshine image at Pinterest and designed the project with all papers included. See the 7 step lesson plan for the sunny face collage here.

Collage by Rosella

Collage by Rosella

See Rosella’s collage above. She was one of twenty 4th and 5th grade students at the one-hour workshop. Notice she created a background with multi-color Sharpie markers that contrast with her collage papers. She created a collage face with cut and pasted papers for the nose and eyes, and cut triangles for sun rays. Papers are bright yellow, pink, purple, lime green, blue and crayon red. Notice all the stripes and polka dots. Rosella is a very dedicated artist and included a lot of collage papers and details. See the original Pinterest sunshine inspiration and more kid’s images here.   The image above shows another Pinterest pin – a sunny face – with text: “Make My Day.” The sunny face is on top, but the emphasis is on the colorful block letter text on a yellow background.  Notice the letters are triangles, rectangles and semi-circle shapes. Each shape is a distinct color: green, purple, red, teal blue, and orange. Notice the colors change as shapes overlap. Everyone – kids and adults – loves to play with letter shapes. I will design 2 projects. The kids’ workshop will emphasize overlapping shapes and how the colors change when the shapes overlap.  We’ll explore color transparencies with tissue paper. I will design the adult’s workshop so people explore re-contextualizing the words “Make My Day” and play with vintage Hollywood, and Clint Eastwood images as Dirty Harry.

Portrait Collage, John Szetaker

Portrait Collage, John Szetaker

The image above is by the artist John Stezaker.  I’m a fan of his contemporary portrait collage. Notice he juxtaposed two black and white photos that are probably Hollywood headshots. He cut and pasted the images to make a single composite image. Notice one photo is smaller and is pasted down so the top projects above the photo under. I pinned this image to my board titled portrait collage. See portrait collages here. I’ve included images that range from whimsical to semi-abstract to historic works by the dada artist Hannah Hoch.

Pretty People and Pithy Quotes

Typical Pinterest boards are about food, fashion, and children. Quotes are very popular. Since art is my calling, I collect arty images and pin work by favorite modern artists (Henri Matisse’s photo shows him cutting paper for collage). I organize pin boards as portraits, art journals, mixed media, and geometric shapes, including circles, triangles, stripes, and squares. The flavor is contemporary, geometric and abstract. See all 17 boards here.   I’m very fond of quotes – more and more – and  started 2 boards with quotes. One board is titled “Words to Remember.” One board is titled “Typography in Art.” The image below is all cursive lettering with the statement: “All my BEST friends eat SUNSHINE.” That’s a great comment and makes me smile. Notice the hand-painted letters are black on white and stacked vertically. As a collage project, I would use the quote as a jumping-off point and ask people (or kids) to cut out images that remind them of friends, eating, and sunshine (happiness).   How would you interpret best friends who eat sunshine? Would you include words in the design?  Would your collage be all cut and pasted images? Would you emphasize faces, food or letters? How would you create the letters? Kids like to cut individual letters and paste down one at a time. If you paint letters, I recommend you paint individual letters on medium weight paper, allow the paint to dry, and then paste letters down. Notice the letters are different sizes and some of the letters are lower case and some are capitalized.

Is it a smile or frown?

Is it a smile or frown?

Notice the image above. I see a frown and also see a smile. You decide how you view it. So many people add a smiley face to end sentences in email. This one makes you stop and think. It makes me smile.     The image above is a quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez – “No Matter What, Nobody Can Take Away the Dances You’ve Already Had.” This image would be a great collage project for a girl who loves to dance. The collage could include cut and pasted magazine images of dancers and dancer’s shoes. It would be a different collage project for the Carrie Bradshaws (see cable TV – Sex and the City). She collects top designer shoes. That’s a major theme of the show. Pinterest shows a lot of shoes and images of models in high fashion shoes. Women love their shoes. Imagine a collage showing rows and rows of high fashion, outrageously beautiful shoes. You can find those images on Pinterest. That would be a statement.     There is etiquette on Pinterest. The image above says: “If you want to honor someone on Pinterest please credit their work. So much art it not credited. Please put a name to the art.” I found the pin at Diane Dodson Barton’s site and pinned it to my quotes board. She has 29 boards and 10,205 followers.


    The above image is a quote – “Creativity Takes Courage” by Henri Matisse written in his own script.  How wonderful to see the hand of the artist in his own words. A photo of Matisse (in a wheelchair) cutting papers is on the cover of my board titled “Favorite Modern Artists” (79 pins) – including Matisse, Paul Klee, Louise Bourgeois, Joseph Cornell, Kurt Schwitters, Jean Arp and more. Every one is inspiration.   I have a Pinterest board and show images of my own art that I re-pin from other people’s boards. I am always surprised to see where the images land, and always happy when I see my name credited. See my board titled nikkal studio collages here.   Please add your comments. Let me know if you love Pinterest – or you prefer Instagram.

I am writing about the art reception last Sunday at Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, CT. The exhibitions include contemporary and installation art. There are two solo shows and a group exhibition in the main galleries. All the exhibitions are September 15 – October 26, 2013. Gallery hours are Wed. to Sat., 12-5 and Sun. 1-5. See directions…

In addition to the gallery exhibitions, there is a special preview exhibit with 10″ x10″ works in a range of 2D and 3D media by Guild artists. The works  will be part of a raffle on Saturday, October 5, 2013 (5:00-7:00 pm) at the annual Signed Sealed and Delivered collector’s party to benefit the Silvermine Arts Center.

I invite you to visit Silvermine Arts Center and see the current exhibitions in person. Every gallery installation is worth seeing.

I invite you to purchase tickets and attend Signed Sealed and Delivered on October 5th. The walls in Sara Victoria Hall auditorium at Silvermine will be installed with hundreds of original small 4″ x6″ works tacked to the wall, all ready for you to purchase. Works are 2D and 3D. Plan to attend. The art is very affordable. It’s a great party.  Purchase tickets now. Read more…

Kerry, Nancy, Claudia, Stephanie and Shiela

Kerry, Nancy, Claudia, Stephanie and Shiela

The image above was taken on Sunday at the opening reception. I am with 4 artists who are part of the group exhibition titled Beyond the Book. The artists above are from left to right, Kerry Brock, me, Claudia Mengel, Stephanie Joyce and Shiela Hall. See some of the art behind the group.

Contemporary art = installation art.

Every gallery included installation art. The people interacted with the art – walking around and through, touching, reading and talking.

Today, we are all part of the show. That’s the way we want to experience art events.

When I visit museums and galleries, I study how the art is installed and how people are viewing the exhibition. I watch the people.  I always find that the experience is like multi-media collage. I look at people who look at art, and they look at me. The art experience is about people, images and the way the exhibitions are put together.  It’s all a collage.  Do you agree?

Christine Aarons, Liminal States

Christine Aarons, installation for Liminal States

The image above is a view of the gallery installation for Christine Aaron’s solo exhibition Liminal States: Beneath the Surface, a solo exhibition at the Silvermine Art Center (September  15 to October 26, 2012). Photo courtesy Robin Axness, Silvermine Arts Center.

Christine Aaron’s studio practice focuses on themes of memory, loss and the passage of time. Images of trees (some are real) serve as a metaphor for the cycle of life. Read more…

Shiela Hale, Book and Table

Shiela Hale, Book and Table

The image above is Shiela Hale at the Beyond the Book exhibition on Sunday at Silvermine Arts Center.  The 7 artists in the group include: Kerry Brock, Shiela, Barbara Harder, Stephanie Joyce, Elisa Khachian, Claudia Mengel, and Susan Newbold.

The concept for Beyond the Book asks us to question what a book can be and how you experience it. The exhibit includes paintings, prints, drawings, books as sculpture and furniture.  Read more…

 Shiela is standing next to her book (sculpture) on her table. She creates elegant, minimal artworks (drawings and prints), and books that are sculpture and contemporary commentary. All the small tables in the Beyond the Book installation were designed by Shiela Hale and fabricated according to her new patent.  Photo courtesy, Robin Axness, Silvermine Arts Center. Read a review about Shiela Hale’s  patented furniture design.
Amy Bilden, Timeline 1, 2012

Amy Bilden, Timeline 1, 2012

Amy Bilden’s solo exhibition titled “Inheritance” includes tactile domestic-inspired sculptures that, according to the artist,  map emotional and physical space. The image above is titled Timeline 1 (2012), yarn and personal objects. Image, the Internet.

Bilden’s installation includes paper sculpture that hugs the top of the gallery walls.  The elements are individual fragile folded papers, but the mass effect assumes power in space. Viewers looked closely at the multiple parts that make the whole.

See more images. Read more about the artist…

Nancy Nikkal, paper collage

Nancy Nikkal, paper collage

The image above is me standing next to my black and white collage titled Cell Block. It’s layered paper over 35 mm transparencies on 10″x10″ wood panel. I created the work for Signed Sealed & Delivered at Silvermine Arts Center on Saturday, October 5, 2013.

The image below is a view of gallery walls with donated 10″x10″ works for Signed Sealed & Delivered. See images online.

Gallery view, 10"x10" art

Gallery view, 10″x10″ art

I hope you enjoyed the art scene at Silvermine Arts Center with this online tour. I hope you know it’s always better to see the art in person.

Silvermine Arts Center is located at 1037 Silvermine Road, New Canaan, CT.  All exhibits are September 15 – October 26, 2013.  Gallery hours are Wednesday-Saturday: 12 – 5pm, Sunday: 1- 5pm. Signed Sealed & Delivered is Saturday, October 5, 2013 (5-7 pm). See information online, or call 203.966.9700.

I will attend the collector’s party in October. I hope I will see you there.


May 17, 2012

The American sculptor John Chamberlain  (1927-2011) said he didn’t find his media, he chose it.

CHOICE – is very much a part of the artist’s process.

The John Chamberlain retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum (February 24-May 13, 2012) closed last week. See Museum curator Susan Davidson’s review of the show at the exhibition video.

I am so glad I got to see the show.

Chamberlain, Untitled 1961

The image above (Untitled 1961) is paper, cardboard, printed paper, crayon, paint and metal on painted fiberboard, 12 1/4 x 13 x 5 inches. Courtesy the Allan Stone Collection.

Chamberlain said fit and choice were the guiding principles in his career. The exhibition showed he was really a collage artist.

Chamberlain always used the word “chosen” over “found” to describe both his materials and art-making process.

His sculpture was 3D collage with deep folds that he created by squeezing or compressing metal and then “fitting” the various elements into complex compositions.

His materials were found in the ordinary sense but were chosen (collected, stored in the studio) waiting for the artist to choose, manipulate, paint, scrape and assemble.

His work is about juxtaposition, recontextualization, recalcitrance, fit, and chance.

Chamberlain, Delores James, 1962

The image above, titled Dolores James (1962) is painted and chromium-plated steel, 72 1/2 x 101 1/2 x 46 1/4 inches. Courtesy The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.


One of the key features of the exhibition is the variety in size and mastery of scale and proportion. Chamberlain was always examining and exploring scale.

Chamberlain’s sculptures range from the size of a fist (his hand) to the span of a generous hug (he was a robust man and it would have been a big hug), to the scale of a young (and eventually not so young) tree.

Chamberlain said if you get the scale right, the size doesn’t matter.


Chamberlain was a brilliant colorist and defied the color taboo.

When his career began in the 1950s, no sculpture had color because the Abstract/Expressionists dominated the art world and had a manifesto – color is the business of painting, not sculpture.

But Chamberlain said his color was part of the things he chose because the color was manufactured. That set him apart immediately from everyone else working in sculpture.

Chamberlain, Nutcracker, 1958

Chamberlain is considered one of the great colorists in mid-20th century American art – his work is painting in 3 dimensions.

The image above, titled Nutcracker,  is painted and chromium-plated steel, 45 1/2 x 43 1/2 x 32 inches. Courtesy the Allan Stone Collection.

Chamberlain chose common materials and that tied him to Pop Art. He worked with standardized, manufactured materials and that tied him to Minimalism. His method of assembly (juxtaposition and layering to get the right fit) tied him to collage and Neo-Dada.


In the 1960s he took a 7-year break from metal and automotive parts and played with paper bags.

The image below, titled Penthouse #50 (1969) is watercolor and resin on paper, 5 x 6 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches. the Dia Art Foundation.

He called the process “articulate wadding,” He crushed paper and dripped resin into the paper creases to increase their weight and solidity.

Chamberlain, Penthouse #50, 1969

He played with urethane foam (squeezing and folding and tying).

Chamberlain, Untitled, 1966

The image above, Untitled 1966 is one of many works in foam. The exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum included a large scooped and shaped foam seating area that people sat down on. Chamberlain called these “nests.”

During the 1960s he played with steel boxes (some started as tin spice containers), and had them enlarged to the size of a cigarette pack, then opened and crushed them into new forms.

He melted Plexiglas boxes and had them vacuum-mineral coated.

In the mid-1970s Chamberlain returned to automobile steel and  he dripped, poured, scraped and spray painted his colors.

The exhibition included freestanding sculpture, floor sculpture, wall sculpture, and smaller 3D works in display cases. Some pieces are welded or bolted, but many are not.

Chamberlain, Lord Suckfist, 1989

The image above is titled Lord Suckfist (1989). It’s painted, chromium-plated and stainless steel, 83 3/4 x 57 x 56 inches. Photo courtesy The Pace Gallery.


I talked with a gallery guide at the Museum, and asked about some of the large works that were freestanding and if they were welded. He said typically the works are not bolted or welded, just fitted together and are assembled and disassembled with each exhibition with intricate plans for how they are assembled.

Chamberlain said it was all about how they fit together.

I followed a group with a private tour guide and listened to him describe how the Museum created new walls to bring the works closer to the viewer.

The tour guide made me notice how Chamberlain inserted shiny chrome metal into many of the free-form sculptures. He talked about the way the metal folds looked like folded cloth.

Chamberlain, Kiss 12

The image above, titled Kiss 12 (1979) is painted steel, 30×31 x 27 inches, Galerie Karsten Greve, St. Moritz/Paris/Cologne.


We walked around the sculptures to see them from every angle, see how the metal is compressed and manipulated, and how the colors moved. He talked about how there is a sense of the “baroque” in Chamberlain’s  work especially in terms of the look of folded and draped material.

When Chamberlain chose car metal for his media, he was playing in the transgressive field of collage.    Read more…

You can see works by John Chamberlain  in a permanent collection at the Dia Art Foundation in Beacon, NY. See the Guggenheim Museum website for images and more information. Purchase the exhibition catalog John Chamberlain Choices for brilliant essays and images.

Here’s a project for all of you who want to explore collage as sculpture: Take a paper bag, blow into it, compress it, open it or pop it, pierce it, fold it around something else or attach something to it. Add paint. Experiment.

Please share your comments if you’ve seen the show. Thank you.


October 19, 2011

I love the Southwest United States and any excuse for a visit is fine.

The image nearby shows the bright blue skies of Albuquerque, NM. It’s rare to see clouds and there is not much rain. Image: the Internet.

My trip to Albuquerque, NM was for art and business and to attend the Board of Directors meeting of the Society of Layerists in Multi-Media (SLMM).

I arrived on Sunday. On Monday, we had a marathon business session to discuss an upcoming conference in Taos, NM in 2012 with speakers, a panel presentation, workshops and a reception for an exhibition at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, NM. It will be the 30th anniversary of the founding of SLMM.

The Millicent Rogers Museum includes historic Native American Arts, Hispanic Arts, the Maria and Julian Martinez Pottery Collection, Contemporary Arts, and Jewelry from Northern NM.

Read about the premise of SLMM and a recent book about SLMM titled Visual Journeys: Art of the 21st Century, co-edited by Mary Carroll Nelson and Nina Mihm.

The image nearby shows Native American jewelry from the Millicent Rogers Museum collection. Image: the Internet.

I planned a day-trip to visit Santa Fe galleries.


I wanted to stop by Zane Bennett Gallery and Charlotte Jackson Fine Art, both on South Guadalupe in the Rail Yard gallery district adjacent to Site SantaFe.

Site Santa Fe was closed for installation, The next exhibition is titled Agitated Histories (October 22, 2011 – January 15, 2012).

I wanted to visit the Karen Ruhlen Gallery, Handsel Gallery, and GF Contemporary on Canyon Road.


It’s a good thing I’m pretty flexible, because the plans changed.

Instead of visiting galleries, I joined my art colleagues and visited Santa Fe artist’s studios. I couldn’t say no to that kind of opportunity.

First stop was a visit to Paula Roland’s studio. She is currently showing encaustic on paper at William Segal Gallery, 540 South Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe through October 25th. It’s an impressive gallery and her work is gorgeous.

Paula Roland in her studio

I took the image nearby of Paula Roland in her studio. She is demonstrating her encaustic printmaking process.

Paula has instructional DVDs for beginner to advanced artists on the basics of encaustic and printing with wax.

We left Paula’s studio and went to lunch at El Charro, a popular restaurant in town.

At lunch I sat next to Sandra Duran Wilson, a member of SLMM, and the author of 2 books:  Image Transfer Workshop: Mixed Media Techniques for Successful Transfers (with Darlene Olivia McElroy), and Surface Treatment Workshop: Explore 45 Mixed Media Techniques (with Darlene Olivia McElroy).

Sandra Duran Wilson calls herself an abstract collage artist.  She says her mixed media paintings include printmaking, transfers and acrylic, and some have Plexiglas panels embedded into wood panels to add depth.

Read Sandra Duran Wilson’s Artist Statement. She says she paints concepts. You can also purchase her books at her site.

Art by Sandra Duran Wilson

The image nearby is titled Evolutionary Dance. It’s 30×30 inches, acrylic and mixed media. Image: the Internet. See her works online.


After we left Sandra Duran Wilson’s studio, we drove to Laura Stanziola’s place on the Old Pecos Trail. Laura collects and sells an incredible assortment of vintage papers, books, old postcards, doll heads, game boards and ephemera right out of her home. She is called the Queen of Ephemera. Read more about Laura at Darlene Olivia McElroy’s blog. Darlene is co-author with Sandra Duran Wilson of the books mentioned above.

I did buy stuff from Laura Stanziola. It was irresistible and it will all find a way into my collages (or other people’s collages).

The image nearby is my photo of wispy clouds seen outside Laura’s home. I was standing on the hillside and I think I almost stepped into a snake hole. It’s a good thing I remembered to look where I’m walking when I’m in New Mexico.

We ate dinner in Santa Fe, and drove back to Albuquerque.

The following day, Wednesday, I visited a fabulous exhibition titled Hispanic Traditional Arts of New Mexico at The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History (September 18, 2011-January 8, 2012).

The exhibition included masterworks in religious image making in wood, sculpture, tinwork, filigree, colcha embroidery, weaving, and straw applique, all from the permanent collection of the Albuquerque Museum dating from the Colonial era to the present by Hispanic artists in New Mexico,

In addition to historic objects, the exhibition includes contemporary works by many artists who work in the same traditional art genre.

Art by Monica Sosaya-Halford

The image nearby is by Monica Sosaya-Halford, Reredo, 1982, acrylic and gesso on pine, Gift of Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. Image: the Internet.

I will be back  in New Mexico next year for the SLMM conference in Taos and a return visit to Santa Fe. I can hardly wait.


I worked on a new collage the other night and didn’t finish it until almost 2 am – I was determined to put all the pieces together and not leave it for the next day. Reason: take a break and it all changes. Your thoughts are transient. So it’s important to finish everything in one session or accept the fact that the work (the ideas) will change.

Does this happen to you?


Nikkal, Drawing the Line

My “Line” is making collage. The collage (seen above) is titled “Drawing the Line.” It’s 14×11 inches, with various papers, acrylic paint, mounted on smooth Bristol paper (2011). When the last piece was glued down, I stood the collage up against a tall object and looked to see if it needed new pieces (HINT: it’s good to see your work vertical after you’ve worked on it flat and horizontal).

I liked what I saw (lucky me) and was amazed at how much the collage looked like a drawing. That was not my plan. How did that happen? (See below)


I’ve been thinking a lot about two recent exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC. The first show was titled On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century (November 21, 2010-February 7, 2011), and the second show is titled Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914 (Feb. 13 – June 6, 2011).

I wrote about the two exhibitions – Drawing is Collage/Collage is Drawing – commenting that Picasso’s collages looked more dimensional in the second exhibition.

Images online and images in the very excellent exhibition catalog (Picassos Guitars 1912-1914) never do justice to the works. It’s worth a trip to NYC before the show closes June 6th to see this exhibition in person at the Museum of Modern Art.

Picasso’s papery guitars were revolutionary in concept in 1912 and the collages were experimental departures from the traditional picture plane. Picasso was blazing a trail.

Holland Cotter reviewed the exhibition on February 10, 2011 in The NY Times (Picasso Guitars: Art & Design: When Picasso Changed His Tune). He wrote: Today, nearly a century on, it’s hard to grasp how disturbing such work was to some at the time…It was perceived as a slap in the face to beauty, idealism and decorum, proof of European culture on the slide…People got angry.

Picasso, Musical Score and Guitar


I was amazed to see Picasso used straight pins. The papers are pierced and puckered. You can see shadows at the edges of the papers that are pinned. The image above (Musical Score and Guitar, 1913) is cut, pasted and pinned colored paper, sheet music, and paper and charcoal on colored papers, 15 3/4 x 18 7/8 inches.

Picasso, Bar Table with Guitar

The image above, an installation view with 2 people looking at Picasso’s Bar Table with Guitar (1913), cut and pinned wallpaper and colored paper and chalk on colored paper 24 3/8 x 15 3/8 inches shows how the papers are puckered.

Why did Picasso use pins? Pins allowed him to position and reposition works in progress.


Memories stick (like pins), and influence you, and you may not even be aware of it until you step back and see how you are influenced.

Lines are everywhere. I see TV commercials with lines in motion. Today’s skyline was filled with lines. I didn’t plan in advance, but my mostly black and white collage is on a green background (a page from a magazine I painted with a mix of green acrylic paint).

The green is the color of early spring grass and buds, and a harbinger of warm weather to come. It seemed a perfect fit as we transition from winter to spring.

If you want, see more drawings with collage – 16 works titled Strata – at my website.

I hope you will add comments. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas.


January 22, 2011

January 21, 2011

I live in the suburbs just outside Metro New York.  This winter it’s snowed every week. Up to 3 feet has accumulated in places. People are starting to complain.

Snow does slow down the rhythm of your day. Especially in the burbs. You need a car to get around and you have to count on the road crews to plow and salt if you need to get anywhere. There’s also the issue of your walkways, driveways and steps. Who’s doing the snow shoveling? Somebody has to shovel. If you have to commute to work and want to avoid the drive, you have to work at home. If you have to get to your job, you have to deal with delays. I work at home. I do it because I can, but I miss my studio and the routines I’ve established.

Last Thursday, a cub reporter for a local paper in a nearby town stopped me on the street. He had a professional camera in his hands. He asked if I would let him interview me – and I said yes. WHY NOT? I wondered what he wanted to ask.

He asked:  Do you like snow? SNOW?

I was so surprised by the question. Everywhere I looked the snow was piled high.

I said: I love snow. It’s beautiful most of the time. And, hey, it’s winter.  It’s supposed to snow in the winter (I can be very philosophical about the seasons). I remember lots of snow as a girl (see my comments below).

nikkal, squares in totems 3

We were due for more snow. I could smell it in the air, and we got a lot of snow the next day.

He asked: “Is it a problem for you? How do you cope with snow?”

I replied: It really isn’t a question of coping. It’s not really a problem for me. The roads get plowed so the inconvenience doesn’t last that long, and I can work at home. I don’t have the kind of job that requires me to be at a specific place. I make sure I have everything I need to do my work – the  media and tools I need.  I told him I am a collage artist and work with papers, glue and paint.

(The collage nearby was produced at the kitchen table at home last weekend.)

When I talked to the reporter, I wondered if he expected the answers I gave, and if anyone else he interviewed said they had a problem with snow. Would anyone admit they had a problem with snow?

I feel lucky I can work at home. But it does slow me down. There are distractions. There’s a different rhythm to the work that gets done. The light and the workspace are different.

Probably, everyone who isn’t a nurse, doctor, policeman or firefighter can work at home. Who else is so essential they have to be at work and can’t work at home?

The reporter took my picture. I gave him my business card and asked him to check out my website. I never got a copy of the newspaper and don’t know if my picture or the interview was in the paper.

nikkal, squares in totems 2

I rushed to my car to drive to the market to get milk and juice. My favorite milk (the one with 0% fat that tastes like whole milk) had disappeared from the shelves. The teenager at the checkout said the store was mobbed an hour earlier. He looked like he had been through an ordeal.

(The collage nearby was created during a day it snowed. The pieces remind me of blankets.)

With all the snow, and the time spent in the house, I’m catching up on a lot of email, organizing image files, and spending quality time planning a new step-by-step collage workshop. I will post results on my next blog –  it’s more how-to tips on Conjur Woman portrait collage inspired by Romare Bearden that is a follow up on an earlier blog titled Romare Bearden Conjur Woman and Collage.

Last night we got 4 more inches of snow. It was very cold and icy, but the roads were plowed and clear by mid-afternoon. I took the picture  (above) outside my front door at about 3:20 EST. We expect more snow next week.

Do you complain about the snow? Is it a hardship? Do you have to carpool? How do you get your work done if you can’t get to work? Or – is the snow something you enjoy? Does it bring back happy memories? Does it inspire you? Do you want to sit back, make yourself a soothing cup of tea and write about it?

nikkal, squares in a striped field

I have a memory of snow, and of being stranded with my family in a cabin in the Adirondack Mountains when I was a small girl. We got snowed in. We were visiting a very rustic couple (he hunted and fished and they lived an almost totally self-sufficient existence.

I don’t remember how we got outside the snow-blocked front door, but I do remember wearing snow shoes and walking on the high snow in the bright sunlight. It was magical.

The image nearby was created at the kitchen table and reminds me of a snowfield.

Thank you for your comments below.