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I retain copyright to my work at all times. However, you may use my words and photos on your blog without asking for permission, as long as the following conditions apply: 1) it’s not a commercial use, 2) the work is attributed to me, 3) copyright notice is included (© Janice McDonald), and 4) you link to this site. If you wish to use my words or images for anything that might be commercial in nature, please ask.

Standing in the shadow of the moon

I was vacationing with my family in Oregon during the total solar eclipse this summer (08.21.17). We took advantage of an eclipse-related festival and attended educational / cultural events at my alma mater, Oregon State University, for a couple of days.

It was wonderfully nostalgic — here’s a photo of me in front of Fairbanks Hall, the art building, which seems almost entirely unchanged since I graduated. The atmosphere, with smells of paint and views out the old glass windows, is just as I remembered. The gallery inside was hosting a really well-conceived show, titled “Totality.”

On the morning of the eclipse, we positioned ourselves in an open plaza area where we could see shadows cast by the trees and watch the sunlight project the eclipse through those openings and onto the ground, as if through a pinhole camera.

I was totally enchanted by the cast shadows that were the reverse of what we were looking at in the sky (with our special glasses on, of course).

Adjacent to the plaza was a sports court with a smooth blue surface. The images were even more distinct there, some of them looking like marbled paper. Even our shadows began to have some of those eclipse shapes in the negative spaces.

I was alternatively looking at the sun with my glasses and then taking them off to see what was happening on the ground. All the while the air was cooling as the sunlight diminished. (The white stripe bisecting the image with blue/green background is boundary line on the sports court.)

Below is a photo taken right before totality, when all the shadows of the trees went away as darkness fell mid-morning.
Just before the eclipse became total, shadows on the ground appeared that wiggled like snakes, kind of like the heat wave you see over the road when driving on a hot day. It was the glowing activity of the corona very briefly projecting itself onto us and the ground… an odd, almost dizzying sensation.

Suddenly it seemed like the moon snapped fully over the sun. I felt that I heard a sonic boom. Then it was dark above, with a glow 360 degrees around the edges of the horizon as if the sun had set not long ago… simply gorgeous. We were able to look up without the glasses during that time and try to absorb what we were seeing.

The image of the moon in front of the sun was so powerful. We were awe-struck. I feel like the image is imprinted on my brain — I can be recall it in a very clear way. The eclipse tinted us and everything around us a metallic gray color. The shimmery glow around the moon was beautiful. Totality lasted less than two minutes and then the moon began to move off the sun. We put our glasses back on and watched the remainder of the eclipse until the sun shone fully again. I have a whole new recognition of the three dimensionality of the moon and sun in space now.

I’m wondering how experiencing the eclipse might affect my work in the future. I’ve always loved circles and have taught myself how to rip pretty good ones, if a little ragged, to use in my collages.

I was struck when I got home from the trip and looked anew at this collage, “Replay,” made in 2012, which hangs over my desk. The correlations are rather interesting… it has a painted background with salvaged and painted papers applied on top. And yes, I ripped all those yellow-gold circle shapes and the half circle negative strips.

“Replay,” 2012, 36 x 24 x 2″, salvaged and painted paper on wood panel. ©Janice McDonald.

While the rest of the family has declared themselves to be total umbraphiles, I’m still processing this stunning experience… not sure if seeing another would diminish or enhance the power of the first experience. If you’ve never seen a total solar eclipse though, I believe it’s worth making the effort to get a location where you can experience totality… as my favorite commemorative t-shirt read, “Totality Worth It!”

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Portable collage works

While I settle back into my home studio, I’ve been pretty content working on abstract collage compositions in a large Moleskine journal/sketchbook (8.25 x 11.75″). Despite my rather huge paper collection, I aspire to have a more minimalist lifestyle (eventually!) and working like this feels particularly right for the summer season.

These analog collages are made with elements ripped from discarded magazines. They do not include any added drawing or painting, just glue. Some imagery is just destined to be salvaged, connected, and transformed.

I’ve been posting these small collage works on Instagram. To see more, follow me there at janicemcdonaldart. In the meantime, here are snapshots of a few of the collages… including one in progress on a work table at the Art Gym.

Sketchbook collage {06.01.17}

Sketchbook collage in progress {06.02.17}

Sketchbook collage {07.06.17}

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Collect, Compose & Create — a collage workshop

There have been a lot of requests to learn more about my collage processes, so yes, I’m finally offering a one-day workshop! It’ll be happening on Sunday, October 16, 2016 from 9am to 4pm at my studio in Denver, Colorado. 

Demonstrating techniques at the Art Gym last spring... no microphones will be needed at the workshop!

Demonstrating techniques at the Art Gym last spring… no microphones will be needed at the workshop!

I’ll be discussing collage in general, collecting materials, and composition — as well as reviewing supports and adhesive techniques, including my signature wet working process. There will be plenty of materials to work with and finished examples to enhance our conversations along with ample time to experiment, work on collages, and discuss.

Attendance is limited to six people so there will be plenty of space to work and so that I can spend adequate time with each person attending. Workshop cost is $120. plus a $10. materials fee.  Information about what to bring will be provided to all registrants by September 20. Most materials will be provided however you may want to bring special items that are of interest to you.

I’m really excited about spending a day immersed in collage activities with some of you! For more information or to register, please contact me via the connect page on my website.

***9.21.16 Class is now full. However, please contact me if you’d like to add your name to a list to receive advance notice of future classes.***

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Un-Masked… unveiling a collage for The Mask Project

Last fall I was invited to create artwork to contribute to The Mask Project, an auction to benefit Denver Hospice. Once I agreed, I received my “canvas,” — a cold-looking, almost life-sized, white plaster mask.

Mask upon arrival at my studio.

Mask upon arrival at my studio.

The raw mask sat in the studio looking blankly at me for quite awhile before I had time to begin working on it. I’d wondered how well papers would adhere on the curved surfaces but my wet working process allowed them to flow with and adapt to the shape, attaching well. Granted, I was working with fairly thin papers and small pieces and I’m sure that helped. It was fun to work on a different kind of support and to respond to the facial features in my own whimsical way.

mask work in progress

Just beginning work on the mask… to almost finished.

The mask, “Foundling,” will be on display as part of an exhibit in the Kaiser Permanente Grand Court of Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver, Colorado from September 12 through October 25, 2016. A number of masks from celebrities and artists are available for viewing and auction. Online bidding on the masks begins September 12 — view (or perhaps bid on!) mine here. Bidding ends October 9.

My mask comes with an added premium item: a $150 Gift Certificate for Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, an amazing restaurant / bar / performance venue. Thanks, Ophelia’s!

Final mask for Denver Hospice’s The Mask Project, “Foundling,” by Janice McDonald.

Final mask for Denver Hospice’s The Mask Project, “Foundling,” 8.75 x 6.75 x 1.5″, collage by Janice McDonald.

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Unboxed… a stealth project (until now)

And now for something completely different…

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been fortunate to work on many commissioned collages, most with references to landscape, assembled on sturdy wooden supports. My last solo show, Paper Trails, reflected and continued that series. As I was working on those collages, I started to wonder what it would be like to work on more casual pieces with random edges, pushing collage beyond the boundaries of straight edged boards/supports.

So I’ve been quietly working on a new idea for about a year and a half now, first thinking and sketching, then exploring some trial pieces and musing about the possibilities, collecting materials and beginning to work on the new series in earnest. I was really unsure that it could be the basis for a show, but wanted to push in that direction.

It all started with boxes…

An avid recycler, I find myself carefully deconstructing and flattening the many boxes that flow through our household. I’m struck by the beauty and craft in these common materials. The packages have surprising perimeters, that are revealed once taken apart, and unexpected details in their construction. Each box comes with its own history of purpose, content, transport and consumption — ending as a void, an emptied container, just debris.

"Unboxed 003," 17 x 9" collage on granola bar box. © 2015, Janice McDonald.

“Unboxed 003,” 17 x 9″ collage on granola bar box. © 2015, Janice McDonald.

It seemed natural to try using the unfolded boxes as platforms for collage compositions. I like the idea that the salvaged papers are resting on, and relating to, a salvaged support.

I’ve enjoyed responding to the boxes’ varied shapes and scored fold lines with found / recycled papers. The hard edges of the diecut boxes contrast with the ripped paper elements. While the collages are non-objective works, some of the pieces have a whimsical, almost totemic feeling about them. I think it’s a function of the edges. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of impression they make collectively. That’s something I won’t know until they’re hung on the gallery walls.

Once I had a significant start on the series, I finally determined that the collages are strong enough to make a compelling show. “Unboxed” opens at Spark Gallery later this month! Perhaps you can join me at the opening reception on Friday, August 19 from 6-9pm.

Stealth because…

For a long time, as the collage works progressed, I was quite unsure of their merit and didn’t want to be influenced by feedback from others. And I was oddly possessive about divulging this concept! So I haven’t shown any of them, anywhere, except in a postage-stamp-size image on a gallery promo card. Especially not on Facebook or Instagram, where I have often posted work in progress. Only in recent months have I finally started to show a few samples and discuss them with close family and friends. Now that the series is established, I’m comfortable posting collages from the series here, on my website gallery, and social media. Stay tuned to see more from the Unboxed series as it unfolds, literally!

 

 

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Sequence / collage work in progress

Everyone is always intrigued with work in progress and the sequence of how a collage comes together, so thought I’d do a quick slide show documenting a recent work: “Honey,” a 36 x 36″ collage on wood panel. For whatever reason, this composition developed mostly from the center out toward the edges.

I am working with found and salvaged papers, including chunks ripped from old art posters… so anything that appears painted is appropriated from the poster imagery. When using bits and pieces of other’s artwork, I always try to rip/crop the elements in ways that take the color/texture completely out of their original context so that they become simply an ingredient to use in an entirely new composition.

Lately I’ve been trying to document work in progress on Instagram (along with other inspiration/adventures)… so if you are interested in how collages develop, please follow me there @janicemcdonaldart!

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Happy New Year!

Somehow the last half of 2015 has escaped me… I actually haven’t quite regained my sense of work/life balance (if there is such a thing!) since the death of my Mom in May. I’m getting there though… and aside from that loss, so very many good things came to pass this year that I’ve not taken the time to post here.

Me and Mom, circa 2013.

Me and Mom, circa 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So a quick recap is in order!
Accomplishments… woohoo!

—Completed a 11-piece series of nature/landscape-inspired collages for installation at a hospital in Nebraska.

—Made a large composed landscape for a lobby installation where an image of the original was enlarged and then printed onto 32 separate foot-square wood panels, then hung in a grid.

—Had a very successful solo show that featured my composed landscape series, titled “Paper Trails,” at Spark Gallery.

—Showed with my To Expand artist friends in “Here to There” at aBuzz Gallery this summer and in “Running Dialogue,” currently on view at the Lone Tree Arts Center.

With the "Expand" crew at the installation of our work at the Lone Tree Arts Center in December.

With the “Expand” crew at the installation of our work at the Lone Tree Arts Center in December.

—Completed my two year term as Co-Director of Spark Gallery. I currently have a large new collage on view there in the Annual Members’ Show, through January 9.

—Rented a studio in Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe. Opened the doors to celebrate First Friday in November, just a few days after signing the lease. I now have S P A C E to get some perspective on my work!

First Friday in October 2015 at Paper Trails exhibition, Spark Gallery, Denver.

First Friday in October 2015 at Paper Trails exhibition, Spark Gallery, Denver.

Just getting settled in new studio space... every day I take more paper ingredients down there!

Just getting settled in new studio space… every day I take more paper ingredients down there!

—Took beginning mandolin lessons, cleared and rented my Mom’s condo… and continued my half-time design practice!

Guess it’s no wonder I haven’t posted here in a while. As 2016 approaches, I’m hugely grateful for your interest in, and support of, my work this year and look forward to new artful adventures! Stay tuned. Happy New Year!

"Western," collage enlarged and reproduced for lobby installation at 250 Columbine in Denver.

“Western,” collage enlarged and reproduced for lobby installation at 250 Columbine in Denver.

 

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Botanicollage

About this time last year I was working on a series of nine collages with a botanical bent… and I’m really excited that they are now on view at the Loveland Museum Gallery as part of Xylem, a show of contemporary botanical artworks. The exhibition runs through March 15th in Loveland, Colorado. (Botanicollage has such a nice ring to it that I may have to continue the series!)

"Unfurl," by Janice McDonald

Unfurl,” 10 x 10″ collage, composed of salvaged and repurposed paper, on wood panel. © 2014, Janice McDonald.

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Collage commentary: Eric Fischl

fischlbookI’m in the midst of reading artist Eric Fischl‘s autobiography, Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas — about the vagaries of the art market and his career trajectory. Whether you appreciate his work or not, the story is well-told and pretty fascinating. He writes about art and process in a way that is refreshingly approachable. I really liked his comments on collage, excerpted from the hardback edition, page 214-215…

“Early on in my life I wanted to embrace the margins, but as I grew up I came to realize that so much of my life has been a search for normal. I have consciously tried to make work that took fragments and pieced them back together—impressions and bits of memory collaged into foreign lands or suburban settings, all with the purpose of making them appear seamless. I was reliving my experiences as I was painting them, always at the point just before things fall apart.

Collage is the most important innovation in art since perspective was discovered in the fourteenth century. It’s one of the defining techniques of modernism, especially for the surrealists. Perspective is a mathematical construct that creates the illusion of deep space. It enabled painters to move art away from the religious icon and into the realm of realism. Perspective imitated how we see. Collage, on the other hand, is an artificial construct that imitates how the mind works. It breaks down the world of images into fragments of memory torn from their original context. It’s ahistorical, which is why avant-garde artists embraced it. My colleagues eagerly employed the collage technique and made it central to their art. They experimented with how far apart—at what distance both physically and intellectually—you could place two disparate images on a canvas and still create a formal composition that had dynamic tension, even if the juxtaposed images were essentially arbitrary.

I was uncomfortable with fragmentation and meaninglessness even though I appreciated it in other artists’ work. I needed the world around me to make sense, though not in a stultifying or overdetermined way. Rather, I felt an obligation to give my audience the impression of a coherent moment that was emotionally charged and fragile, but still holding together long enough so viewers could reflect on what it meant. Except in the case of the multi panel paintings, I did not want to make my audience put something back together in order to understand what it means.”

I never tire of working with fragmentation in my own artistic practice… Ripping remains my favorite artistic gesture. Salvaging, editing, and re-ordering fragments to create new imagery, relationships and meaning continues to engage my curiosity day in and day out. I believe I compose with fragments to create some level of coherence that reveals itself to the viewer over time, perhaps not immediately… interesting to think about artistic motivations.

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Behind the scenes preparations

Getting ready to work on a big, new composed landscape collage for a commission. Besides figuring out a whole new way to support this very large surface while I work (another blog post in itself!), I’ve been gesso-ing a 60 x 40 x 2″ wood panel, painting edges black, and contemplating the composition to come.

photo 1

photo 2photo 4

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