ARTIST STATEMENT and MANIFESTO:
My interest in collage art stems from my studies of the Continental Dada and Surreal art movements during the early twentieth century. Manifestos and historical documents written by the figureheads of these movements inspired me to embrace collage practice within my poetry around 2002 or 2003. Whenever I became exhausted with language, though, I would turn to visual collage as a way to continue my art practice without engaging text/script.
Sometime during the spring of 2014, I ceased writing and directed the entirety of my creative energies toward visual art. Since this shift, I've become more interested in design, fashion, and advertising. These fields, to my mind, are much more transgressive, relevant, and artistically compelling than concepts derived from the Continental avant-garde, as well as modern and contemporary poetry.
My generative process differs from piece-to-piece and project-to-project. For instance, occasionally I'll dream of an image during my waking hours and attempt to re-create it through paper, glue, spray paint, or whatever. It's an exciting and challenging process to materialize an immaterial thought or image.
At other times, I simply flip through current issues of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, W, or, likewise, vintage issues of LIFE and LOOK magazines. When I see an image that I find visually compelling, I'll slice it out. I continue this process until I've assembled a collection of cut-outs. To this end, I create and arrange material in an ad hoc fashion, guided by shape, size, pattern, texture, and whim.
Lately, I've forced myself to create more mixed-media works. Experimenting with the manner in which paper interacts with paint, foam, cardboard, sealants, different adhesives, found objects, metal, and trash forces me to re-think materiality and material production/process.
I work in advertising and marketing. So, to a certain extent, I create images that I think would make exciting or bizarre ads. My dream career would be to create print-based advertisements for Céline, Stella McCartney, St. Laurent, Gucci, Jimmy Cho, etc. Fashion advertising, to my mind, is one of the few niches wherein art, pop culture, beauty, and $$$ interact in innovative and curious ways to create an Image.
As a collage artist, the use and manipulation of paper intrigues me, insofar as we (as a society) increasingly move toward a “paperless” culture beholden to digital forms. Maintaining a commitment to a paper-based medium functions, to this extent, as an archival endeavor just as much as an aesthetic engagement.
But far from positioning collage as an act strictly adhering to Luddite sensibilities, it serves as both an alternate and contrarian voice in relevant, contemporary conversations surrounding remix culture, sustainability, and economy. The first of these concepts is rather evident: collage art “samples” other works in order to create theretofore non-existent assemblages.
Regarding notions of sustainability, collage leverages pre-existing materials into new works of art. Likewise, many of the raw materials used in a collage would otherwise be discarded, adding to our ever-expanding landfill and sustainability problems. By “up-cycling” materials so as to create art, a tacit ecological imperative embeds itself within collage practice.
But even if the materials aren’t headed to the landfill, per se, the magazines and books in which I sample have fallen out of the commercial and economic cycles. Excavating, for example, an ad from LIFE magazine circa late-50s or early-60s, enables an image over 60 years old and left for dead to re-enter systems of capital and production flows.
While the aforementioned issues relate to collage as a medium, my particular collages take aesthetic and conceptual cues (although not exclusively) from the Dada movement of the early-twentieth century. Dada, generally speaking, employed chance, randomness, and collage techniques in order to create and champion Absurdity as a valid aesthetic mode.
In his 1918 manifesto, Tristan Tzara wrote: “Every page should explode, either because of its profound gravity, or its vortex, vertigo, newness, eternity, or because of its staggering absurdity, the enthusiasm of its principles, or its typography.” I take this statement as a personal credo. I “explode” or deconstruct pages of books, magazines, and other documents so as to produce works of art that contain “staggering absurdity” and induce an aesthetic “vertigo.”
Absurdity, or works that engage The Absurd, is often thought to be bizarre, humorous, or inscrutable. All of these words accurately describe Dada and, by extension, my collages. But they should not, by any means, be discounted as light or frivolous engagements. To begin with, the concepts I mentioned earlier (i.e. remix, sustainability, and economy) ensure that my collages attend to contemporary and relevant issues.
But there are also other matters that collage engages which are of utmost importance. One such issue is disengagement with Screen Time. As we become increasingly dependent upon our technological gadgets, we become more and more tethered to our screens. How does the light emanating from these back-lit screens affect us (both physiologically and psychologically)? Likewise, how does such an all-consuming engagement alter our relationship (and understanding of) the external / non-digital world? Creating analog collages allows me (and viewers of my work) to escape Screen Time and participate in anachronistic modes of production.
Another issue that I find compelling is the confluence of technical mastery and DIY/punk sensibilities. The former of these two predicates itself on skilled craftsmanship, often indicated through a demonstrable precision. The latter of these two revels in the dirty, slapdash, and unskilled with the intent of manufacturing (or embodying) raw and potent energy.
I actively harness both of these tendencies. On the one hand, I utilize precise and highly technical cuts that, frankly, most collage artist are neither capable of nor have the patience to undertake. On the other hand, I purposely include “flubs” or non-aesthetic elements into my work. For instance, when coating a collage with sealant, I will not remove errant cat hairs that become lodged in the drying top coat. I could remove these, but I believe that a) these non-aesthetic elements tell a unique story about process/production, and b) are a conceptual growl against bourgeois sensibilities and refinement.