Random Thoughts

Collage Making

... collecting images

by Carol Nelson

About thirty years ago I found that I had such a collection of family photographs that there were too many for an album. I bought a poster frame and commenced (my great grandma always said: "commenced") to stick them in whatever order seemed attractive. Some of the baby pictures ended up right next to later ones and time itself seemed to be arranged to my liking. A photo of myself when I was in my thirties fit in the center with loved ones all around. Up in the left hand corner I was five, on the right I was in high school. I added words here and there, and flowers.

On 9/11..yes THAT 9/11, I landed in Germany with my stuff and the rolled up conglomeration. I went to Ikea and bought a new frame for it and was inspired by being away from everyone to work on it and rehang it on the wall of my cute, rented German apartment. Just as it began to look like it really belonged, I decided to come home. It was apparent our country was at war.

So I rolled it up once again and flew home, storing it in my daughter's garage where squirrels nibbled on it's edges. When I got a bit settled, I reframed it and hung it again. It has been moved a few times since.

The dictionary says: "collage is an artistic composition of bits and pieces stuck together on a background." I accumulated lots of images again: cards, magazine clips, etc. so I began a second one. This one became political instead of familial. It became bold in colors and subjects. I let it alone for blocks of time and took it up again when the spirit moved. Eventually framing it and starting another, again political and combining past and present at whim, moving images about, cutting, recombining, and recombining again.

When I looked up "collage" in the dictionary the word "surface" jumped out at me. Maybe a collage needn't be flat and maybe a collage could be "bits and pieces" of something other than paper? So when my grandaughter cut all the silk blossoms off their stems for a project she was doing (Smile Train) I collected all the silk leaves added glue and created a "dress" which has been on display at the Melrose Library.

I bought a dress form from a local store that was going out of business and made a costume using miniaturized posters from an old book. It was fun fitting the segments of paper onto a surface that was decidedly not flat. The finished piece said something to me. Something about ladies clothing and advertising .. something to do with selling art, selling beauty, selling by the use of women, like they do with cars and refridgerators.

I came into possession of a collection of LIFE magazine photographs. Images of us, political and human. Pages of shots of war. Pages of shots of man's inhumanity to his fellow man. I removed the costume from my dress form (now named Thelma) and made a plain paper under "dress" onto which I can glue the images. The Life logo might become a red "price tag", dangling.

Where is this going? Will anyone see messages in my collages? What will I create next?

October 2, 2009

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