As I was going through my overcrowded art storage area, I came upon my nemesis– the art collage box. It was full of things I collected at one time. I was sure I would use them some day.
I won’t tell you everything I found, but there was Monopoly money from a broken antique set, German fortune-telling cards, a work on rice paper by an artist from Bangalore, India, and Mexican loteria cards. Out fell ancient notes and antique photos, a Virgin of Guadalupe print and a Holga photo of Spidermen, and a paranormal magazine I got in Prague in the 90’s.
I thought I might tell you what I kept and what I discarded, but I found I was reluctant to list things I threw away. Hey, it felt like a taboo. Why?
I’ve always said that collage itself had some connection with destruction and death, the dark side. Things are dismembered and removed from their original space, time and context, often by cutting or tearing, actions that have an air of violence. There’s an air of secrecy about them. That box felt like a coffin for dead ideas combined with a treaure box, a graveyard for things that had once compelled me.
Someone would be sure to ask, “Why did you throw that out?” Even worse, they might say, “You could have given that to me. I would have liked that.” I would be responsible for disappointing someone. Another person would become implicated and entangled in my decision. I’ve encountered this a lot. People really do not like it when one simply disposes of things. A taboo has been broken. Improper burial? Disrespect for objects? Then the discarded object comes back to haunt you through the remonstrations of others. And now, with the advent of eBay, all junk has been acquired a false patina of consumer value.
Each item is really the representation of a certain dream, experience, or longing. An object then has become a literalized metaphor, carrying meaning far beyond itself. If I discard the object, do I discard the idea? Or does the object become a substitute for fresh experience? Each item becomes a love letter from a past idea-affair.
Nowadays I use only two kinds of collage: text and black and white non-copyright photocopies of drawings or my own photos. Often the collage vanishes completely, or is torn to become an area of texture that may have figurative associations for me, but not for the viewer. I’ve never liked using “old” or “failed” paintings as collage parts. It seems disrespectful to the original impulse, a Frankenstein construction that I am forcing to life.
I think I’m just as happy putting this flotsam on the floor and photographing them, and then letting them drift back to the strange ether of discarded objects, or the garbage. But then, again…
There, I’ve revealed my collage underbelly. What’s in your boxes?