WHEN YOU think of a collage, the likely first thing you picture is cutting and pasting. Maybe you imagine a scrapbook with photos and ticket stubs pasted into a book. Or maybe you think of digitally cobbling images together with Photoshop. While those definitely are collages, they just scrape the surface of what collage can be.
In Sulfur Studios’ latest juried exhibition, the call for entry asked artists to present an expanded definition of collage in their work. Their result is “Pieced Together,” an exhibition featuring work from 27 artists from six countries that celebrates all types of collage work.
We spoke with Sulfur’s Jennifer Moss and Emily Earl and their guest juror, painter and collage artist Axelle Kieffer.
Tell us about the show.
Jennifer: It's a really interesting mix of collage, assemblage, some installation, found materials and mixed media. We put out the call that it could be anything that took multiple individual elements and put them together to make a new whole. We got a lot of really great entries, so it came down to trying to show a really wide variety of what is currently happening in collage and assemblage work, and what would work together in a show.
What's currently going on in collage?
Axelle: I feel like the past couple of years, [collage] is getting very trendy. I feel like almost every artist now tries to do some collage or assemblage, because it's a very different medium.
People typically think of collage as cutting and pasting. Did you get any entries that challenged that notion?
Jennifer: Cutting and pasting is considered analog, or handcut, so you are actually cutting out pieces. We definitely got that, but other things people are doing is what we'd call digital collage, imagery that is actually found and scanned in or found on the Internet or using Photoshop or other editing programs to make a digital collage. We got several that were found objects; Kenny Ward used found wood and old photos.
Emily: Teeth and clocks, all kinds of really beautiful old materials.
Did the entries you received fit what you expected?
Jennifer: I think we got surprises. Emily Hadland's was a surprise. She bartends at Green Truck, and she has hundreds of thousands of six-pack rings and she created these curtains of fabric out of them. We got a few quilts, which was interesting. It really fits the call because when you're planning your quilt, it's called piecing.
Axelle: I was very surprised by the diversity of the work. You always think analog collage but it was a good surprise.
What qualities in a collage make them stand out?
Axelle: Sometimes the simple collage can look easy, but it's not. I guess it's like a good painting. The balance, the unbalance, the story it's telling—sometimes it clicks right away, like, "Oh my God, this is excellent." Sometimes the connection doesn't happen.
Emily: Sometimes I think it’s more about maybe the shapes are simple, but because you’re replacing certain parts with other unexpected parts, the concept is interesting. You click right away and go, “Whoa, that’s really something special and different,” even though it’s not a complex thing to make physically.
Axelle: Just because it doesn’t look complex, it can still be interesting. Sometimes collage can be seamless and tight, and sometimes it can be rough cut. What I like in collage and assemblage is it’s a very wide medium. Just imagination, there’s no limit. You can use any material.
Emily: I think it’s interesting because you’re so reliant on what materials you have, especially if you’re using more analog or found materials. For instance, when I was trying to make my collage, I don’t have a ton of magazines but I do have these really old photo magazines that were my dad’s from the 60s, so I made the whole collage out of that. That had been sitting on my bookshelf for the last ten years. The material is a reflection of the artist because it’s what you find, so there’s a whole backstory to that.
The show received 166 entries. Why do you think this call was so popular?
Emily: This is the highest we've had.
Jennifer: I think the call was open enough that people could see how their work could fit into it. We did leave it kind of open and a lot of people who do different types of art, a lot of people also collage. Like Axelle is a painter but she also does collage. It is freeing to find imagery and put it together, almost like you’re trying something new to break away from what you’re otherwise doing.