Before the birth of my second son, I self-published a book of artwork titled “Stories Pieced With Paper and Glue.” Below is the introduction to that book, as well, as photographs of a few of the pieces. I thought it related to my earlier post about being a legend in my own mind.
I just completed the layout for this book, and it felt like an exercise in narcissism! You would think I was Salvador Dali himself, with the way I carry on and on about “my work.” But, as this book is meant to chronicle my progression as an artist, I feel it is important to capture the details. I hope to look back on it when I’m eighty, and be reminded of what I was thinking when I made each piece. I used to think it degraded the work to have to write about the fine points rather than remembering them. But as I get older, I remember less and less, so writing to capture details is a means to an end.
I started collaging about ten years ago, and began using it as a method to document my life around eight years ago.
I was drawn to collage for several reasons. I was living with three roommates, and between the four of us, we had quite a collection of magazine subscriptions. I noticed that in every issue, there was amazing artwork and photographs- some of them, I’m sure the artists dedicated their lives to capturing a single moment, only to have the issue discarded as soon as the last page was turned. It seemed like such a waste to me. I wanted to find a way to display all those hidden gems.
husband’s last hurrah motorcycle trip to Alaska before having kids
I had secretly always dreamed of being an artist, but felt I lacked the natural talent and training. When I was younger, I did not have the means to take art classes. I lived in a rural town that did not offer courses in art. I was thirty miles from a major city, and had very little funding. I was unable to attend college right out of high school. By the time I had my own financial means, I lacked the self confidence to pursue a formal artistic education. In my mid to late twenties, I began to draw and paint privately. I had some raw ability, but without proper guidance, I struggled to create the images I saw in my head.
goodbye ColoradoHello Arizona
My early collages were pretty standard. I collected images I was drawn to, and began to piece them together. Many were based on political ideas, especially female stereotypes in mass publications. I then began to create collages based on themes, as gifts for friends. I had a friend who was a DJ during the rave craze, so I created a collage for him based on rave culture. I had another who loved meat, so I fashioned one for him with pictures of different cuts.
At this time, I began to gain more confidence in my artistic ability. I had ended a toxic relationship and felt like I had a second chance at creating the kind of life I would enjoy. I began to take more chances, and to care less about my lack of formal training. Instead of merely piecing together other peoples’ pictures, I began to create my own pictures from scraps of paper and repurposed images. I also began to tell the story of my own life through my collages, documenting important milestones and influences.
Liam’s birthday collage
While I was making personal progress, I noticed that the artistic community looked down upon collage as an art form. Most viewed it as simply gluing together the works of other people. I wanted my collages, good or bad, to at least be seen as original. I started sketching components that I would later create out of paper. I also started photographing my own images to be used in the collages, at one point going so far as to photograph every element that I would use in a particular collage. I took pride in challenging myself to create completely original works.
Now I am at a place where I just want to create pictures that make me happy. I still draw and photograph for my collages, but I also marry them with pieces taken from magazines and books.
I wish I had begun to document my progress long ago, as I think it is a great tool for learning. I have no record of most of my earliest collages. I gave or threw them away. Once I started documenting, I didn’t really think through the best method to capture images. Many of the visuals in this book are taken from very terrible photocopies I made of the collages before disposing of them. I then tried to go back and photograph the photocopies. I have documented what I could in the format I could.
I used to never call myself an “artist” or talk about “ my work,” because I thought people that did sounded like assholes. I still kind of think that. But I’ve also decided that if you spend a decade of your life doing something, it must be important to you. At one point, when my confidence was at a low, I quit making pictures. I felt like a joke among the artists that I knew. I had one of those much talked about “a-ha” moments when I realized I made pictures not for recognition, but simply because it brought me joy to do it. I was doing myself a disservice and making my life a little more miserable by denying myself the activity. So I picked up my scissors and glue and started piecing together my story once again.
What can I say, I’m a collage artist. I’m a joke. I’m an asshole. I like what I do