I can sense that you’re getting antsy, perhaps looking for a last minute gift or two for artist friends who seem to have everything already (damn them!). Worry not: I can help. (well, me and Amazon Prime…)
This installment of All You Want For Christmas gives RLD readers a look at three of my current rave-fave books about collage, a format I use on a daily basis. Painters use pigment, printmakers have ink. Pens, pencils, brushes — sure, those are good too. But day in and day out, I always rely on collage, whether putting together postcards, bundling up ephemera, or editioning artists’ books.
And just when I think I’ve “seen it all” as far as collage is concerned, there’s an artist that pops up to surprise me. The following three are great examples.
The artist Jess was born in Long Beach, CA. and played an influential role in the bay area art scene during the 1950’s. Jess and his partner Robert Duncan surrounded themselves with poets, painters, and performers of the San Francisco Beat Era. Together with Haey Jacobus, they formed the King Ubu Gallery (later to be the Six Gallery, where Allen Ginsberg would first read Howl.)
Published by Siglio Press, the book Jess! O Tricky Cad and Other Jessoterica will be a great companion piece to next year’s show at the Crocker Museum in Sacramento. Reproductions are lovingly rendered; readers can see close-ups of Jess’s incredibly detailed, intricately designed collages. This becomes especially meaningful once you realize how dense each artwork is: layer upon layer of imagery, cut with razor-like precision.
Mary Delany’s work is just as detailed, but the subject matter (collages of flowers, done to exacting botanical standards) is a study in 1770’s tradition. Born into a wealthy British family, Delany struggled in ways familiar to many well-to-do daughters of the time: married off by a vaguely scheming uncle into a loveless marriage and widowed at an early age. But her story has a happy ending: she remarried for love a handful of years later. After twenty five years of being happily married, Mrs. Delany found herself widowed once again (she was 74 years old) and turned to creating her “mosaicks” as she called them.
The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock is a fascinating look into Delany’s life, while weaving a contemporary portrait of the author’s modern-day life. I found that some of the author’s insights about being an artist and creating artworks (and specifically, collages) rang true. Example: “Great technique means that you have to abandon perfectionism. Perfectionism either stops you cold or slows you down too much.” (p. 28, The Paper Garden)
When I first saw Tony Fitzpatrick’s work, it stopped me in my tracks. Larger than life and raging with color, every single detail jumped off the canvas and nailed my feet to the floor. I felt like I was falling into a whirlwind of all the things I loved: gum wrappers and matchbooks, handwritten narratives, long-forgotten alphabets, exotic characters that tickle the back of your brain — have you met them before? So when I saw the book This Train: An Artist’s Journal, I knew I had to have it.
The city of Chicago is an important player in Fitzpatrick’s work, but other factors can be seen as well: pop culture, Tokyo, voodoo and superheroes. Definitely my kind of guy.
(ah! that’s one of mine shown above!…)
So there you go — the first installment of All You Want For Christmas! In three days time, AYWFC — bookbinding will appear. A third and final AYWFC — mail art edition will follow; by then you’ll probably be wanting to purchase a little something special for yourself, since all your holiday shopping will be wrapped up. Right?