So glad I made the decision to attend the first-ever KolajFest, a multi-day festival & symposium about contemporary collage and its role in art, culture, and society, held July 12-15, 2018 in New Orleans.It was an honor to deliver the first presentation in the Collage-Making Space, “Ripping It Up,” followed by a demo of my wet-working technique and time for those attending to give it a try. I challenged everyone to try ripping their papers... there were a lot of meticulous paper-cutters in the room so it was fun to see people experimenting and working outside their comfort zone. It was great to connect with people in a truly hands-on way right at the outset of the conference. I so appreciate all of you who were able to be there and participate with such enthusiasm. Thanks to Ric Kasini Kadour and Chris Byrne for their support in prepping for my talk and to Kevin Sampsell and Jay Berrones who set up and managed the collage-making area. I was glad to be the “guinea pig” in that space -- and get my session out of the way! There were lots of choices of where to be and what to focus on at any given moment -- so it was sometimes very hard to decide which session to attend. Beyond the planned sessions, I loved connecting with other collage-makers in the moments in-between and during the walks between venues. Meeting and spending time with people whose work I’d long admired online was really wonderful. Some of my personal highlights included:• Spending time with like-minded, paper-loving collagists with such diverse practices, visions, and approaches -- who embrace this medium with near-fervent enthusiasm.• Getting re-acquainted with Jill Stoll, an extraordinary collage-maker whose new series “Women Standing Alone” was represented with two works in the exhibition “Revolutionary Paths: Critical Isssues in Collage” at Antenna Gallery.• Connecting with an artist whose work I’d admired online, Andrea Burgay, who brought the first issue of Cut Me Up magazine with her. A call and response project, you cut up the first issue to inspire a collage, then submit your work to be considered for inclusion in the next issue, and so on. Only a few copies remain; order one here.• Hearing about the many creative collaborative projects that Amy Tingle is working on via the Creativity Caravan. I'm enjoying her book, Strange Diary, or How to Make a Collage.• Seeing presentations that placed collage in a broader historical sense and learning about Todd Bartel’s concept of “UnCollage.”• Meeting Danielle Krysa... aka blogger/podcaster The Jealous Curator. Be sure to check out her new book, coming in October, titled A Big Important Art Book (Now with Women). Mine is pre-ordered :)• Learning about Jay Berrone’s business, Toil, launching now via kickstarter -- for the purpose of reproducing collage via the medium of silk screen printing.• Having conversations about raising the profile of collage plus creating more community and collaboration opportunities... riffing off all the enthusiasm in the air.• Getting fresh ideas about my role in the world of collage and wondering how those might develop...• Exploring previously-unknown-to-me parts of New Orleans in the mid-summer heat and being rewarded with amazing food, jalapeno watermelon margaritas, and great conversations.OK, I’ve barely scratched the surface! Kolaj magazine’s recap of KolajFest is here and worth a read. Maybe I’ll see you at the next one?Huge thanks to everyone who participated with such a spirit of generosity and to all those who made this inaugural event possible.
It seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time to move everything back into my newly rehabbed studio spaces. I'm sifting, sorting -- and evaluating whether I will ever use some of the potential collage papers and art materials that I've stored for a long time. I've gotten rid of stacks of magazines, a behemoth of a flat file, and a worktable in an effort to keep more open space. I've only been in the space a couple of weeks and I've already rearranged the furniture a bit! I'm pretty sure I'll want to do more tweaking when I understand better how the spaces accommodate my process and workflows. And there is still a lot to resolve. And it feels like it should be DONE by now.So it was a gift to stumble across a timely blog post, "Tidying Up," by Austin Kleon today...
"The best studio tidying is a kind of exploring — I’m re-discovering spaces as I sift through the objects that occupy them. The reason I tidy is not to clean, but to come into contact with something special that I’ve forgotten that I can now use. This is a slow, dreamy, ruminative, reminiscent form of tidying."
Really, I'm clearing space for future work / possibilities... plus making new discoveries and connections.
"...creativity is about connections, and connections are not made by siloing everything off into its own space. New ideas are formed by interesting juxtapositions, and interesting juxtapositions happen when things are out of place."
Meanwhile, glimpses from the process...
Like a glacier, I've slowly been creeping into adjacent spaces at home to expand the studio... it now includes all the original studio space (that I used to share with my husband), plus the family room, and extends to the back porch on especially nice days! The two adjoining rooms had never had the same paint or carpet colors so this fall I had the entire space re-carpeted with industrial gray and painted an art-friendly white. What a huge difference. While this project was going on, all the studio furniture and art-making gear was moved and somehow compressed, stacked floor to ceiling, into our dining room.All this upheaval gave me the opportunity to get rid of things that weren't serving me well, re-integrate items that had returned from my previous out-of-house studio, and re-think how I store the somewhat shocking amounts of paper that I like to have on hand.I've slowly been moving things back into the studio space and am now almost finished, with my deadline being asap, so that we can dine without debris for Thanksgiving!Switching up the way I'd previously used the rooms, plus a new furniture arrangement seems more efficient and allows the luxury of being able to get farther away from my work for the long-view perspective. I'll post some final photos/video soon. Unseen in these photos, right now the detached brick garage outside the windows is also under construction (a whole other story).I am so excited to begin working in this "new" space. Even so, I'm sure that I'll also spend some time at the Art Gym each week just to get out and be around other artists.Speaking of creative spaces... this morning I was re-reading a lovely essay by the poet Mary Oliver about the time, space and focus usually required to keep the thread of an idea moving forward."No one yet has made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not. Still, there are indications. Among crowds, in drawing rooms, among easements and comforts and pleasures, it is seldom seen. It likes the out-of-doors. It likes the concentrating mind. It likes solitude. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker. It isn’t that it would disparage comforts, or the set routines of the world, but that its concern is directed to another place. Its concern is the edge, and the making of a form out of the formlessness that is beyond the edge."The whole essay, titled "The Artist's Task," is here... a good read and applicable to most any creative pursuit.
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."
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).
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.)
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.
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!"