Wednesday, September 2, 2009

About Collage

The other day our station had a booth at MSU's freshman orientation. (It was pretty cool, because after we were set-up, I got to listen to Steve Lopez, author of "The Soloist" (see my take on Chopsticks and String) who was speaking and most inspirational!

But I digress. I was sitting next to a woman who teaches and does PR in the art and art history department. I asked her about her specialty and she said collage.

(All collage, art in this post is mine; this photo is by Michael Maurer Smith.)

As we spoke, she explained that when teaching a course on collage to arts and humanities students, she focused on how really, everything is collage. They took exception to that, saying they didn't know why they had to paste things together. It seemed like baby work to them.

But when you put it in that perspective, it's not only true, but oh, the places your thoughts can leap! And what a lesson that can be for someone entering the next stage of their own personal "collage."

For example, when we dress, we are layering bits and pieces that don't always belong together. Grandma's necklace. A scarf we made. A funky vintage top with modern jeans. Collage.

When we watch a video, think of the layers there -- the raw video (edited, putting bits and pieces together), the overlapping layers -- super impositions of names, for example. And if you go to a channel with a news crawl on top of that, logos, bits and pieces flying in and out of the picture? Collage.

The jewelry my friend Kate made last weekend -- or this bracelet she helped me make several years ago. Polymer becomes its own collage element -- layers of clay making canes. The twine that holds it together. Elements that individually mean something else or look like something else. Together. Collage.

Your house. A structure -- be it brick or wood. Shutters. A garden in front. Something attached to the structure -- a wreath, maybe, or a flag. Collage.

A recipe. Individual ingredients, combined together -- the quantities may vary, the result different. But the glue that holds it together may be the egg or the milk or the oil. This trifle -- pumpkin and gingersnaps and whipped cream. What if they layers were different -- raspberry, pudding? Collage.

Or the Christmas cookies we decorate each Christmas Eve. A cookie. Frosting. Another layer, a different color.

Add a little sugar and you have mixed media collage on a mighty sweet substrate!

The table setting. A cloth. Dishes. Silverware. A centerpiece -- how many flowers are in that centerpiece? What's the vase like? Do you have party favors at each place? Add food -- another element. Collage.

And of course, the collage we do as artists.

When you start to think of our lives as collage, it's really pretty fascinating. One layer of experiences upon another. Something that holds it together. Things change, new things surface, the design may change altogether or become a variation of the original. Our lives. Collage.

When I was very small, I didn't have all that many layers to my life. It was pretty simple. Eat. Sleep. Play.

Then I went to school. Reading added a whole new layer of elements to my life. I learned to write. I learned to think.

Teen time. College. More layers. Music and drama. Making my own decisions. Living with the consequences good or bad. Collage.

Adulthood. Being the responsible one. Caring for and about others in a different way. Collage.

If we dig past the layer of our lives that is this moment -- the stress of the day, the hot thing happening -- we can see who we are, what we have become and how we became that way. I see all the little layers in my life, those layers being experiences. The experience of being with Rick and his kids was so unlike those in my other relationships. One overlapping layer of joy, concern, laughter, worry, love.

The experience of caring for my dad when he was ill brought me responsibility. What goes around, comes around.

Loving a pet and having to let it go. Layer upon layer of feeling. A collage.

The experience of having a job brought reality -- supporting myself and discovering life wasn't an endless free-form existence.

It makes me wonder what layers will come next. What experiences will I have today or tomorrow or very soon that will change me in a significant way. Even if I don't realize those experiences are is significant for a long time.

I am a collage of many colors -- often bright, but sometimes more subdued. Sometimes, wild squiggles explode from my page, and there is plenty of texture -- smooth, soft; prickly, edgy. I have lots of layers, some transparent, others opaque. Maybe someday, I'll try to put myself on canvas!

What about you? What kind of a collage are you? Colors, textures?


Ruth said...

Well you know what I will be thinking about all day! The collage of students in my life. :)

This is wonderful food for contemplation, I love it.

Oh I am finally feeling that I can breathe. Sunday was an intense day of advising new transfer students - 12 of them! Then walk-in advising all day Monday and yesterday. One more day of walk-ins today, and now maybe the 1,000 English majors will be ready for their new semester. Phew.

Fun though! And I always enjoy the new school year feelings - which feels more like a New Year to me than Jan. 1.

beth said...

so I'm a collage, but just never thought of myself that way....

today I'm all bright and full of spunk and sassiness....well, most days that's the way I am :)

beth said...

so I'm a collage, but just never thought of myself that way....

today I'm all bright and full of spunk and sassiness....well, most days that's the way I am :)

Rosa said...

Wonderful post Jeanie! I love the thought of our entire lives being a collage. Your artwork is divine! I love all the pieces. I LOVED the kitty tin. You have motivated me today. Thank you. xoxo

Pugelicious said...

Life is a collage really - and what a great collection. I have to say - I just love the food collages. Probably says a lot about me really and my love for food :) Loved the jewels too - what a great collection of colours - so bright and happy.

Jane Rosemont said...

Loved reading these thoughts first thing in the morning, Jeanie. I'll be mulling this over all day. No, I'll be mulling this over for the rest of my artistic life!

Sugar Bear said...

A beautifully written post Jeanie! I hadn't thought about life having all the layers and the similarities to collage - great observation!
P.S. Love the photo of you on stage!

Jennifer Swan Hopkins said...

Oh I love that - well done, you!

You went to my OLD blog which is

Thank you for trying to visit in any event. Please: Go to my NEW blog, which is

I have opened a new brick and mortar store (read down a few posts in my new blog to find out more). This adds to my collage of MaidenShade-ness, one layer upon and through the next - creating a work of art; )

love from, J

Judy Winter said...

You are one of my favorite collages of all time! :) xo

Judy Winter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beth said...

Great post! And I do agree with you that our lives are made up of so many layers! Hope your feeling better!

Janet said...

Wow! What a great post! I love the thought that everything is a collage. I'm sure that thought is going to stick with me and cause me to look at everything a little differently.

KRCampbellArt said...

You've got me thinking. Life as collage. I like the idea of it, why we do what we do, how we layer the pieces... I know this is going to play out in some way today.

joyce said...

Oh as a that would be a fun art project. I may have to remember that. Either in digital or in real life. Maybe we should all do that & share them. All the things that make us who we are. I feel another project coming on!!

Jen said...

What a wonderful post, Jeanie! I just love this.

The photos are magnificent, too.

BTW... I made that trifle for Thanksgiving a few years ago - it was a HUGE hit.

anno said...

What a wonderful new way to think about one's life! Just what artists do: provoke us into new perspectives.

Sandra Evertson said...

Your childhood photos are adorable! And love the collage work too!
Sandra Evertson

~*~Magpie's Nest said...

Beautifully said Jeannie, no wonder I like collage so's life!!!
Great photo journey with your commentary = Love it!

Unknown said...

You are amazing Jeanie cos what you say is true, life is a collage but I never thought of it that way - I will now Thanks to your eloquence my friend, I love the imagery too xxx

Mary Bee said...

My mind is rqcing trying to collect a verbal image in my mind that would describe the depth of me as a collage. This is a super post Jeanie. I'll post my outsome onFacebook maybe.

Pam Aries said...

Your post is wonderful and totally inspiring. I often think in 'collage' ha. Especially since I started collaging a lot. All of this is so intriguing nd very true. THanks Jeanie!

Shelley said...

Inspiring post. Being a daughter, sister, mother, cousin, granddaughter, wife and friend--yup..I'm a collage. Thanks for the enlightenment.

BONNIE K said...

How very true. A new way of looking at things.

ForgedinPaper said...

This post is real food for thought. I'm thinking about all my layers now. Thanks for the inspiration!

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