Art Collage Box Cleanout

Spidermen Original Holga Photo, Suzanne Edminster. Pre-Instagram!

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.

Collage Box

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.

I bought this in Bangalore when I was rich. Now I’ve lost the artist’s name. Perhaps Rashika Thakur?

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?

8 comments

  1. I stepped away from collage mostly because of the packrat it inspires/requires. My critical and uncertain selves taunt me about stuff I gave away or sold for pennies. But it’s the reciculation, the flowing chi if you will, that brings life into the old objects/ideas/inspirations.

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  2. Your blog topic is SOOOO interesting to me, Suzanne! What we choose to keep and throw away –this topic has intrigued me since my childhood. I tend to be the one in my extended family who loves to “purge” and throw away–yet I have boxes and bags of items in my studio closet that I’ve been saving for years to use in some future art project. Now you’ve motivated me to pull it all out and start sorting through …..Thanks, as always, for the inspiration!

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  3. I am positively squirming in my seat after reading this! You totally got inside my head about collage, and I’m wishing I could be around before your trash gets collected! But I totally understand your reasons for not passing unwanted ephemera to your friends. And even thinking about “what’s in my boxes” feels a bit cumbersome. . .but oh, I do love collage, baggage and all.

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