Cut & Paste, part 1

Collage is the noble conquest of the irrational, the coupling of two realities, irreconcilable in appearance, upon a plane which apparently does not suit them.”   -Max Ernst

 

Recently, I’ve started doing collage. I don’t know about it being a “noble conquest” or “coupling of two realities,” but I suppose my perspective on collage has grown. In the beginning, my philosophy might have been something like this:

Collage is the way in which art class deadlines may be met swiftly, with minimal effort on the part of the student artist.
True, I was only trying to be practical when I started collage. But also true that I had been seeing a lot of Max Ernst collages in my Surrealism and Dada class, which helped get me into this new media.

While I can say that I wanted to get away with doing less work, I also know that I can’t help being sincere in the things that are important to me. Currently those would probably be my majors, art and sociology (among other, non-academic things). So collage also came about as both a new routine of art-making and an attempt to move beyond my artistic comfort zone, a process I had actually (accidentally) begun the previous November.

In my Intro to Oil Painting class, we were asked to create a “forgery” of another artist’s work for our final. Meaning we had to produce a painting in the style of another artist. I love street art, so I chose Jean-Michel Basquiat.

    

Unfortunately, liking an aesthetic and being able to reproduce it don’t go hand-in-hand.

Street art, and really any abstract art, is really REALLY difficult for me. Yes, it might look like a four-year-old drew it…but my version looks like an awkward adult’s stiff attempts at recreating her childhood. (Obviously she should have just glued popcorn to construction paper and called it a day.) I’m just not as attuned to what makes an abstract piece strong or visually pleasing. Or – yes, I’ll say it – successful.

So the Basquiat piece started out as a disaster. It was a couple days before final critique and I was seriously ready to consider this painting a failure. Then my professor, feeling my pain, swooped in and miraculously guided me in the right direction so that I had an artistic epiphany-breakthrough moment and everything turned out alright. Basically. With some prompting, and new materials, I was able to finish the piece by messing it up. My breakthrough moment was learning to be loose and messy, and so I used oil pastels! On top of my painting!

I scribbled and scratched up the painting – this time being a little less analytical – and it was fun! The piece that had caused me so much misery was turning out to be fun. Plus it was loaded with all kinds of angry messages about my university (very street-like, don’t you think?) – even better! Actually, part of what had been so paralyzing to me was that I had lofty ambitions for the concept of this piece. It was, and still is, a very important message that I want to communicate, and so having it end in failure would have deeply upset me. But the moral of this story is that I got a taste of what it was like to create loose, intuitive art, which is something I see continuing through my collages.

I leave you here, because this post is getting long, and I’m getting tired. And by calling this post part one, I’m trying to trick myself into posting sooner.

Let’s end with a collage:

 

Max Ernst
Max Ernst

Read Part 2 here.

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