Consideration III


poetryCOLLAGE: the texture
                  of language


sources + techniques
news + shows
sources + techniques

Collage has a rich and ancient history.  Classical icons, adorned with applied textures and gemstones, featured images and holy texts,  suspended in a shimmering space where the sacred and secular intersected.  Japanese calligraphers combined poetry and image within textile-ornamented scrolls, and in Europe, medieval prayerbooks merged spoken prayer and image, framed within the rhythms of the day.  In the 20th century, collage was embraced by the modernists, such as Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, as an art form embodying both process and product.

materials used for collage
While collage has been part of the fine art of many cultures, it also has less exalted origins.  Pressed-flower herbariums, scrapbooks, travel journals, and ornamented sketchbooks became popular in the 19th century. Women often created these everyday objects, and passed them down through families.

Writers, too, have been drawn to collage.  As a teenager, Emily Dickinson created an annotated herbarium, and as an adult, created collage-like poems which she sent to her friends.

My collection of materials has been many years in the making.  I was given a shoebox of old buttons as a child, and have augmented it with antique embroidery threads, vintage cameos, thrift-store finds, and recycled clothing.   I have also used fragments from the 1793 farmhouse in which I live: old keys, hardware, fragments of old wood, and pottery shards from the gardens.  Landscape forms the underlying structure of most of my work, and I use watercolor-tinted Japanese tissue, acrylic glazes, and pastels to create en plein air studies of the natural world, which serve as inspiration for my textile collages.   

I am always attuned to the interplay of color, texture, and texts, collecting these diverse strands in a sketchbook while reading, out walking, and listening to music.

For further reading:

Jen Bervin and Marta Werner, eds.  The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems (New Directions, 2013), 272 pages.

Daguerreotypes at Harvard, Weissman Preservation Center, Harvard University Library, 2009 (on-line exhibit).

Emily Dickinson, Emily Dickinson's Herbarium: A Facsimile Edition (Harvard University Press, 2006), 208 pages.

Liz Heron and Val Williams, eds., Illuminations: Women Writing on Photography from the 1850s to the Present (Duke University Press, 1996), 521 pages.

Jessica Helfand, Scrapbooks: An American History (Yale University Press, 2008), 224 pages.

Elizabeth Siegel, Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage (Art Institue of Chicago, 2009), 200 pages.

Martha Nell Smith, "The Poet as Cartoonist: Pictures Sewed to Words," Emily Dickinson: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Judith Farr; New Century Views, Richard Brodhead, Maynard Mack, Series Editors (Prentice-Hall 1996), 225-239.

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