New Project Series: Modern Abstract Collages

I am not new to the idea of creating works of art through collage. This form was touted by my professors at Indiana University South Bend. I made collages as part of one class. Another, who helped me to fall in love with poetry, has made a serious run of them (I’m talking hundreds of collages). I had a few of my collages published in the university’s student run literary magazine.

Pretty much on a whim, I took some construction paper laying around and throwing clippings together to make interesting compositions. My thought was, could I make interesting and challenging art out of construction paper? Here were the first two. They are brothers, the second (Island Storm) made from the failed remnants of the first attempt.

This raises a few questions for me. While I am calling these pieces collages, this comes mainly from the fact that the process mimics how a collage is made. The implication of the word collage and what I understand about it means that it should have media coming from multiple sources: magazines, colored paper, newspaper clips, etc. Yet my creations use only (with a few exceptions) construction paper.

Secondly, can serious art be made with construction paper as its chief medium? Construction paper is trivialized, seen as juvenile. It is something you find in a grade school classroom, not in an art studio. Advertisements for construction paper are obviously geared towards children, even featuring happy children cutting and gluing.

The Pendulum
Mixed Media Collage
16 x 12 inches
2021

While I am still wresting with this question of whether this is art that can be taken seriously, I am forced to admit to myself that it is this question itself which makes this project compelling to me. There is a inherent challenge here that defies our preconceived notions of what construction paper is and what it can be. This challenging of the norm is attractive to me.

And as I spend more time with the medium, I start to notice things that I actually find really enjoyable. The paper has a real texture. You can feel it as you make the collages, but is also visible to the eye when they are observed on the wall. The colors are soft. And because I am not mixing paint, there is a consistency with the colors that I find pleasing. Collages can be grouped together based on color scheme to make a sort of series. Like so:

The process is improvisational, often the scraps of a completed collage are used in the next. This process connects the collages in an interesting way that can’t be found in other art forms. I can identify pieces which share parts of the same paper.

While there are real questions about the art (Can it be taken seriously? Is it even good?), for the moment I am enjoying this new exploration. At the end of the day, I am having a good deal of fun.

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