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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.


This spring, at Denver’s Clyfford Still Museum, I got to see the unrolling of a number of Still’s works that had been in storage for years. Many bundles of paintings have been unopened since arriving at the museum. Packages are opened when the conservators are ready to begin working on them. A docent mentioned the opportunity and I’d signed up months in advance to be there, along with about 25 other curious people — plus a team of conservators, photographers and museum officials.

Signed: Clyfford 1953

When Still finished a painting, he would remove the canvas from the stretcher bars so that the bars could be re-used to begin work on another canvas. Galvanized chimney pipes (the only easily-sourced tube that was long enough) were used to roll multiple canvases together. The rolls were stored in a barn. The rolls were numbered and some have notes and thumbnail sketches of what might be inside. However, even the conservators were not absolutely sure what was inside all the rolls.

Here are some photos, taken in the conservation room at the museum… The paintings looked pretty amazing flat on the table so it will be especially exciting to see these re-stretched and hanging in the museum sometime in the future. I’ve also included a photo of some of the inventory sketches, done by Still’s wife, that the museum uses as reference. Charming as they are, it made me especially grateful for all the amazing tools we have these days to document, inventory and archive artwork!

Beginning the process

Galvanized stovepipes were used to roll the canvases

Unrolling, layer after layer of paintings

Dean Sobel, museum director, gives his initial reactions to the paintings

Huge canvases, layered and now awaiting conservation

One of my favorites… the energy in those brushstrokes!


The inventory notebook initially created by Still’s wife







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.


Image & Word: Art and Poetry in Conversation



This summer I was invited to make an artwork based on a poem, then a poet used my collage as inspiration of a new poem, and so it went: eight artists, eight poets. Artists and poets worked in anonymity, so the unveiling will be a surprise for everyone involved, including: Chuck Ceraso, Susan Allspaw Pomeroy, Jimmy Sellars, Maria Melendez Kelson, Priscilla Fowler, Lisa Zimmerman, Jennifer Parisi, Bill Tremblay, Linda Armantrout, Aaron Anstett, Gayle Crites, Joseph Hutchison, Jared Smith, Monika Edgar, Kathleen Cain and myself.

You’re invited to attend the unveiling of the works at “Image and Word: Art and Poetry in Conversation” on August 16th at 7pm at the Louisville Center for the Arts in Louisville, Colorado. Tickets are $12 and seating is limited so reserve your seat in advance here.  I’d, of course, love to see you there!

Since I’m not allowed to show my collage, I’m showing you the debris field of leftover papers behind and around my easel! Anything could’ve happened…


Collage artist trading cards

Collage Artist Trading Cards, pack of 15 cards.

Lots to look at: pack of 15 Collage Artist Trading Cards,

You’ve heard of baseball cards, but do you know about artist trading cards (ATCs)? They are artist-made miniature works of art to collect and trade. Collecting ATCs is a popular trend right now. (An internet search of “artist trading cards” + “your city of choice” will yield information on local groups that meet to trade cards.)

Along those lines but on a larger scale, the publishers of the art magazine, Kolaj, have begun issuing packs of 15 Collage Artist Trading Cards. Their goal is to further disseminate the work of contemporary fine art collage artists and to encourage people to learn about new artists. These are professionally printed cards, each measuring 5.5  x  3.5″ with an image on the front and information about the collage and the artist on the back.

I’m happy to be included in Pack One of the trading cards (issued late 2013) along with international collage artists Bev Butkow, Ewan Aparicio, Holly Savas, Jeni Bate, Joe Castro, Kamee Abrahamian, Lita Kenyon, Mongobi-Bibbiana Mele, Nikki Soppelsa, Pierre-Paul Pariseau, Ross Carron, Sara Winkler, Stephen Tierney, and Vesna Vrdoljak.

If you’d like to start a collection of your own, the cards are available for $10/pack here from Maison Kasini.

A great collection of stamps arrived along with my pack of Collage Artist Trading Cards.

A great collection of stamps arrived along with my pack of Collage Artist Trading Cards. Very cool!



Waterfall, a composed landscape underway

View of the level three collage underway, a rocky scene with a waterfall. I’ve painted the edges of the cradled wood panels black so that some of my papers will wrap around the edge and expose a bit about the way the collage was assembled. And yes, I work with gallon-sized quantities of glue :)

Work in progress on the waterfall collage to be enlarged for level three of the stairwell.

Work in progress on the waterfall collage to be enlarged for level three of the stairwell.


Composed landscapes

Aerial view of the studio: the calm before the storm! Wood panels and drawings ready to begin.

Aerial view of the studio: the calm before the storm! Wood panels and drawings ready to begin.

So I set to work. I had done very simple sketches of how the landing imagery would flow upward through the space. As you climbed the stairs, different views would present themselves. Beginning with level one, walking along a stream with broad views into the distance, level two at the edge of a forest, level three passing a waterfall, level four above treeline, and level five depicting the last few boulders at the peak with views of the sky and distant landforms.

Each collage would be composed of many pieces of paper ripped from magazines and repurposed to make new landscapes from my imagination. The studio quickly became filled with piles of sifted materials! These were more detailed and more realistic than any collages I’ve made in the past… they needed to be wildly interesting at nine times their original size so there was a constant concern about how they would translate once enlarged.

Here I'm working mostly on the "above treeline" collage but sifting colors into piles for potential use in other pieces.

Here I’m working mostly on the “above treeline” collage but sifting colors into piles for potential use in other pieces.

Collage work in progress… the usual paper mayhem ensues!

Collage work in progress… the usual paper mayhem ensues!


On a quieter note…

Reflecting on a small group of the Daily Mail collages.

Reflecting on a small group of the Daily Mail collages.


Views of the “Overlooked Artifacts” exhibition at Spark Gallery on a quiet afternoon… There were 75 original collages, framed with UV glass and archival matting, each 12 x 9″ in size and hung chronologically in a grid. This represented each day’s mail from March, April, and May of 2013.

It’s always great to have company in the gallery, but sometimes I look forward to a lull when I can take it all in, size it up, and think about where my work may be taking me next.

The first collages, from March, in far left grouping, left to right, top to bottom.

View upon entering, to left of door at Spark Gallery.

View upon entering, to left of door at Spark Gallery.


The long wall of collages...

The long wall of collages…

The final few collages and the end wall with my artist statement and guestbook.

The final few collages and the end wall with my artist statement and guestbook.





Recycling Reversal: Art of rubbish event

I’m looking forward to showing my collages and demonstrating some of my working techniques at “The Art of Rubbish,” a celebration of found-object/item artwork, on Saturday, September 21st, from 10 am – 3 pm at the Aurora Central Library at 14949 E. Alameda Drive, Aurora, Colorado.

Art of Rubbish

Other “Rubbish” artists are Brenda Stumpf and Lily Erb.

Meet the artists and work on your own art projects… more details in this Westword blog article: “Create art out of found objects at Recycling Reversal: The Art of Rubbish on Saturday.”

Stop by and see us… maybe make something out of “almost nothing!”



Stages along the way: collage commission 3, details


“Rooted Together,” two left-side panels, collage in progress.


Here’s the collage in progress as I begin to lay in the root structure and detail the meadow and tree bases with layers of paper.

I’m using rice paper for the root structures for its transparency so the colors from below show through somewhat. I’m working with magazine color areas for the plant details… and the patterns from inside of security envelopes for the aspen bark striations!

Ran across a wonderful quote while I was in the midst of this work… funny how that happens…

“Our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest. The maple and the pine may whisper to each other with their leaves… But the trees also commingle their roots in the darkness underground, and the islands also hang together through the ocean’s bottom.”

—William James, psychologist and philosopher (1842-1910)

Lovely thoughts.



“Rooted Together,” detail from upper left panel, collage in progress.



High altitude art


high-altitide-sideI had a lovely drive up to Breckenridge, Colorado last week to drop off work for another show with the To Expand group, this time at Teal Gallery. The roads were dry and the mountain vistas were spectacularly snowy. I love how the shadows move, change and define the planes under the all white surfaces of the snow.

Finally I was able to go over to Beaver Run and see my collage project, in person. (Thanks to the snowboard gal who took a moment away from the slopes to snap my photo!) It is installed in a two story portion of the lobby so I enjoyed the views from above and below but wasn’t wildly successful in getting a better photo of it in situ… It really could use some additional lighting. Still, I’m thrilled to have it there!

The day was so warm, and the area so protected at the bottom of the ski runs, that I settled in at a sunny picnic table to eat my sack lunch outside and people-watch… a nice little field trip.

The artists’ reception at Teal Gallery is this Saturday, January 19th from 5-8 pm. If you are in the vicinity, please come by and say hi! The show will runs through February 7th, 211 N. Main Street, M-F, 10-5 and Saturdays 10:30 – 6.