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July 28, 2012



So my 2 1/2 year old grandaughter sent me this lovely collage this past week. I was shocked, actually, when I opened the package and found this piece of artwork. I realize that her mommy helped her, but she did the background painting, picked the leaves from the yard, and put them in place as well as all the stickers, upside down and backwards to boot! I was shocked because, although I am not an expert in the art world, I have taken a class here and there and dabbled in several different media, including collage work. This little girl has an eye for color, balance, and composition that truly surprised and delighted me. I really loved the 3 ducks who appear suspended in air over an upside down penguin and the white polar bear peeking at me up in the top left corner of the piece…and the hedgehog who is floating right on out of the picture like a balloon. The more I looked at it, the more I wondered if I could have done as well, and a very accomplished, award winning artist friend of mine looked at it and thought that I had done it! I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or an insult, but it did speak to the quality and art worthiness of the collage! Image

This by the way, is the artist having her first pony ride with a huge tile collage filling an entire wall of the building behind her! Maybe it was an omen!

I got to wondering about the word collage and with the help of my ever ready Wikipedia found that it comes from the French word “a coller” meaing “to glue”. Collages were first used around 200 BC at the time of the invention of paper in China, but their uses remained very limited until the 10th century in Japan when artists began gluing their calligraphy work on textured papers. But it is Pablo Picasso who is given credit for bringing collage into the modern art world at the beginning of the 20th century where it has remained a very popular and respected form of art. We see collages today in the finest art galleries of the world and they are assembled using everything from paper to metal to glass to wood, paint, bits of ribbon and ephemera, recycled objects, ceramics, tile and photography.

My interest in collages began as a little girl when my mother was taking art classes as part of her work toward a teaching degree. If you’ve been following my blog you know that my mother was a very talented artist, an active member of the Rural Rembrandts Society who displayed her work in many professional buildings and sold at numerous shows and art fairs across the state of Wisconsin. I don’t know if the collages that she did were assigned as collages, or just part of the creative process that she implemented to fulfill required projects. But I remember bright splashes of paint, funny shapes made out of multi textured papers, twisted pipe cleaner and fine wire, parts of old watches and other crazy stuff that one would not normally associate with fine art. My father always rolled his eyes at contemporary art of any kind and even though he praised my mom’s art work their entire married life, he was never quite sure about the “modern” art! I also remember one piece that she framed that was nothing but geometric shapes of every size and color made from different textured paper. The pieces were all done in white, black, gray and brown and fit together like a puzzle. I was mesmerized by that piece. If I looked at it long enough I could find all kinds of pictures inside it……everything from mountains and streams to city streets and high rise buildings. That was just my imagination of course, but then what is good art if not something that takes you away from the ordinary into a land of magic and make believe. Or at least transcends the ordinary and my mother’s collages certainly did that.

I realized in thinking about it that our lives are nothing more than great big ever changing collages. We take the bits and pieces and change them as time moves on or we orchestrate or circumstances demand. I think that as a child, like my little grandaughter, most of life is perceived as warm, safe, and colorful… the baby ducks, the pretty leaves, and the shiny red apple. Later, as a teen ager the collage changes colors as we swirl our way through adolescence, first love, and career decisions. A little mud here, a rainbow there. Early adulthood throws all sorts of shapes and colors at us with first homes, first cars, first babies, first jobs…a rich kaleidoscope as our stories deepen and become firm. Middle age mellows out a bit. The colors are softer, the shapes not so sharp. And then in that last great segment of life I see collages as unique as the people who are creating them. Each one a life’s story told in the vernacular of the individual artist.

Here’s hoping you each have fun creating your own collages….. to the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows……but most of all to life! And remember, LIFE WITHOUT ART IS JUST EH!

Happy Saturday,

Chatty Grandma


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