Friday, May 2, 2014

Collage as an Art Form

There is just something about collage; I'm not sure if I can really find the words to explain why, but it continues to fascinate and mesmerize me like nothing else.  Is it because of the juxtaposition of disparate elements?  How do things that came from such different sources manage to look so right when glued next to one another? It seems very mysterious, almost magical at times, like some weird form of alchemy.  In short, it defies logic.

I believe that magic is art and that art, whether it be writing, music, sculpture, or any other form is literally magic.  Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words, or images, to achieve changes in consciousness.      ~ Alan Moore

Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

Making collages, however, at times seems a lot more difficult than it should be, at least to me. It's something of a challenge for me to coax those elements from diferent times, places and applications into looking as if they magically go together. I like a challenge, though, which is probably one of the things that drew me to collage in the first place. Others, however, appear to do it effortlessly. Those are the artists I'd like to focus on in this post.

Collage is an artform that has really come into its own in recent years, with the growing popularity and ever-widening diversity of mixed media art. I think it's important to note that collage has gained much credibilty and respect considering that it is an artform that began only 100 years ago.

Still Life with Chair Caining - Pablo Picasso

Picasso and Braque were the first to coin the term 'collage', which comes from the French word for glued paper, 'colle'. Picasso used collage in his oil paintings, fragments of news print which were meant to reference current events. No one is sure which of them was first to make a collage, but both began sometime in 1912.

Merzbild-Rossfett - Kurt Schwitters

"[Kurt] Schwitters introduced the use of collage as a snapshot of the everyday. He integrated scraps of cardboard, bits of text, and ticket stubs found in the street, their juxtapositions emblematic of life’s chance encounters." (From Cut and Paste to Action Montage: 100 Years of Collage History)

Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden was another artist who did much to advance the use of collage as a primary form of artistic expression.

The great post-impressionist /fauve painter Henri Matisse did an entire series of collages when he was  confined to bed later in life due to poor health. These pieces were combined into a gorgeous book called Jazz.

collage on linen by Rex Ray

Graphic designer Rex Ray sometimes uses collage to solidify designs before they are made into fabric, rugs, etc.

One of my favorite collage artists is Fred Otnes.  The link here leads you to a beautiful book about Otnes written by Jill Brossert, which I happen to own and highly reccommend.

Fred Otnes

White Flag by Lance Letscher

Helicopter Ride by Lance Letscher

Cecil Touchon

I love how Cecil Touchon  uses the positive and negative shapes of letters to form these gorgeous abstract compositions.

It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.   ~ Anais Nin

Hollie Chastain's work is so emotional and nostalic in mood. And, what is even more fascinating to me personally, she often uses old book covers as substrates.

Science Fair by Hollie Chastain

Michael Waraksa's detailed collages often incorporate maps - a material near and dear to my own heart.

Kayli's Wave by Matt Cusick

Collage artist Matt Cusick constructs his very complex and detailed collages completely from pieces of maps.

Bonnie by Matt Cusick

 Missing Pieces 2012-3 by Lisa Hochstein

Parts of Speech 8 by Lisa Hochstein

Derek Gores

Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos.   ~ Stephen Sondhiem

Of course, these are only a few of the many exciting and inspiring artists working in the medium of collage.  To see more brilliant collages by a wide variety of contemporary artists, try Randel Plowman's book, Masters CollageThe Art and Craft of Collage by Simon Larbalestier provides a fascinating look at innovative collage techniques.  Another favorite of mine is Collage, Assemblage, and Altered Art: Creating Unique Images and Objects by Diane V. Maurer-Mathison; it has been a great source of inspiration for me.

Eunice Parsons

This video about 96 year-old collage artist Eunice Parsons is well worth watching; unfortunately, I could not get it to embed, but if you click on the link, you won't be sorry.  I so want to be 96 years old someday, sitting on the floor of my studio, ripping up and gluing paper!  What could be better than that?


  1. thank you for this, sharmon!


  2. Great collage tour Sharmon! I do have my heroes ... Picasso, Bearden come to mind and then Lisa Hochstein ... she has been my sometime mentor, a local artist and an easy favorite of mine.
    I like collage too and agree ... a challenge for sure!

    1. Thanks, Mary Ann, I'm glad you liked the tour. How cool that you know Lisa Hochstein - I love her work!

  3. Thanks Sharmon, I enjoyed that. Collage is on my mind at the moment too. As you say it's harder than it looks but with practice one's eye becomes quicker at picking out the elements one needs. I'm working on a wood collage. Not so easy when you have to cut the wood to fit. I wish I could just fold and tear :-) Michael Waraksa's work caught my eye immediately.

    1. You're right, Robyn, practice definitely helps. A wood collage would be very difficult, it seems to me; I'm grateful I only have to fold and tear!

  4. Collage is on my mind too! There is definitely magic in the process! I don't know if I ever told you how much I love your banner?

    1. Roxanne, thanks for stopping by, and for the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed the post! xo

  5. I was surprised Hannah Höch wasn't in your historical list - the original art punk! too radical even for Dada! Loved the tour of contemporary inspirations too!

    1. Deb, I can't believe I forgot Hannah Hoch; I love her work! Must have been having a brain fart or something. Glad you enjoyed the tour!

  6. un joli choix d'exemples ... biz

  7. Thank you for this post. You have introduced me to some unfamiliar collagists among some old favourites. I'll be searching out the book about Fred Otnes.

  8. What a beautiful gathering! I LOVED EVERY BIT OF IT! I too love collage, and it is definitely a struggle at times, but when it comes together it is so worth the challenge. and yes I want to be like Eunice Parsons when I grow up!

  9. Thanks for visiting, Kim; I'm glad you enjoyed the collages. Eunice Parsons is way cool, isn't she?

  10. What a marvellous post Sharmon!!!! Very well researched and put together. Thanks for the effort and all your great links.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I'm happy to reply here, but may not always have time for individual emails.