Over the summer I worked with art consultant Hilary DePolo on a proposal to use enlargements of my collages to enliven the interior stairwell of a new office building adjacent to Denver's Union Station.The concept was to encourage people to use the stairs by creating a welcoming and visually stimulating environment. In addition, another artist would add a motion-activated sound installation to further animate the space.I worked with the building plans to develop a scale for the original collages that I felt would translate when enlarged and applied to an entire landing wall. The image needed to be clear from a distance and interesting graphically as a viewer climbed closer. Because I am working with images culled from magazines, printed with a dot pattern, it was critical to make some samples of what the enlargement might be like.We eventually settled on an enlargement of approximately 900%. The lowest level had a low floor-to-ceiling height, the top level had a tall floor-to-ceiling height, and the remaining three floors had the same proportions. The original collages were done on boards that reflected those proportions. Each original panel was one foot wide but the heights would vary to accommodate the floor-to-ceiling height differences.
As part of the "Overlooked Archives" exhibition, I incorporated a wall of envelopes as a background for my artist statement (a short explanation of the work). I wanted something textural as a counterpoint to the collages, all under glass this time.The envelopes also served as a visual reference for where some of the collage elements originated. I love the patterns in security envelopes and wanted viewers to stop and consider them. I even included an envelope addressed to me by my Dad, in his amazing backhanded script, as an unspoken nod to him. One realization I had while working with all this mail is that very little of it is personal, most of it is commercial — so I loved it when something with actual handwriting arrived! Thanks, Dad :)Here is the actual text from my statement about the show...Overlooked ArtifactsAn exhibition of collages made from each day’s mail during a three month period.We are subject to such an assault of visual input that it’s no wonder the printed materials in our lives, many of them unrequested, become a blur.Delivered... I’ve attempted to transform the remnants of discarded and unanticipated mailed imagery into elegant little jewels. This series of 75 collages is intended to capture the incremental passage of time and encourage a fresh look at the incoming paper stream.Dissected… Exploring the inherent beauty of salvaged color and form that’s been liberated, literally ripped, from its original context has been both a joy and a challenge. Some days the postal pickings were slim, other days potential ingredients were abundant, and on a few sad days (and Sundays), there was nothing in the mailbox. No mail, no collage.Reimagining form… On March 1st the only item in the mailbox addressed to me was a postcard from Bed Bath & Beyond—perhaps you’ll recognize it!Enjoy,Janice McDonald
I'm often asked where the bits and pieces of my collages come from... I have a habit of looking at the negative spaces, the spaces BETWEEN and AROUND the featured items in a photograph. It's often there that I see the patterns, color gradations, and subtle imagery that I find most intriguing and useable.
The large photo above shows a recent photograph from the newspaper that had ingredient potential. (Caveat: It's very dangerous not to finish the paper before I get to it, if you want to be assured of reading the complete story!)
At left is a detail of the photo where I've indicated, with green outlines, the areas that I will rip out for future use.
I was recently explaining how I gather materials during a demonstration to a local art guild. Afterwards one fellow said, "You sure see things differently..." Yep, and I took that statement as a huge compliment!
A couple of weeks ago, while visiting New Orleans, I noticed really interesting found abstract imagery all over the city. To top it off, I spent several hours exploring St. Louis Cemetery #1. (Overall photos and information about cemetery conservation efforts are here.)
The worn monuments and surfaces of the cemetery were really amazing and inspiring -- an intriguing visual treat, on hallowed ground, in the midst of an architectural/historical treasure! Here are a few of my favorite photos, all details/patterns. This imagery may not ever make its way into my work, but I am fascinated by composing with the camera when I discover patterns/surfaces that truly constitute found art.
The cemetery is interesting on so many levels and well worth a visit next time you are in New Orleans... assuming you can tear yourself away from the jazz, food (beignets!) and drink.