Click image to enlarge:
Notes on these collages:
- I’ve found myself drawn to shapes in my collage work more often lately. The triangle is probably my favorite. I’m not going to get brainy and talk about the mathematics of triangles; I simply like the visual energy in its slants, which, depending on its position in a collage, can suggest movement, growth, or escape. I also find myself thinking of pyramids and religious symbolism. Even Freemasons or The Illuminati. The weird mystery of triangles and the implied secrets of life they cover or hide.
- The triangles in these three pieces are all made from a book called The Universe by Leo Marriott, which is full of spectacular photos and fascinating history.
- The people in the collages are: Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music, Christopher Lee as Dracula, and an unidentified model from an old advertisement for refrigerators.
- Artist and writer Joseph Young wrote an essay earlier this year about covering faces in collage art, and though I don’t agree with his dislike for it, it is an interesting read.
- On the flipside of Young’s opinion is the marvelous work of John Stezaker, such as his series of Marriage collages and Mask collages. Stezaker’s work is mysterious and sometimes mind-altering. The way his work plays with faces was one of the reasons I became so intrigued about collaging in the first place.
- I’m showing these collages and about thirty others at Radio Room in Portland this month. The show is called Paste Eater and will be up until November 25th.
Paper Trumpets Spotlight: Gracie Gummer
Hailing from the UK, 23-year-old artist Gracie Gummer has produced a lot of work in a short time. Working with photography, layered images, fashion design, nature, and the female form, Gummer’s work is inviting and clean, even when it’s surreal. Her collages hold a subtle subtext of commentary on subjects like female identity, the male gaze, and wildlife preservation. I asked her a few questions about her work via email.
The Rumpus: What sparked your interest in collage?
Gracie Gummer: I’ve always been interested in working with mixed media; my passion has grown and developed over the past few years. At school I used to paint huge portraits, adding sand and paper to my paint to add layers and textures, painting over other images, and building up multiple layers. Then at college my work moved closer to collage, using my own illustrations and photos to create multiple mixed media works, using both printmaking and drawing. Then when I started at university in Leeds it just sort of developed, I looked at several other collage artists like Kurt Switters, Martin O’Neill, and Man Ray and my love for collage just developed from there.
Rumpus: How did you approach doing your 3D work, Mother Nature? The photos on your website include real women among the collage pieces, is that right? Was this part of a show somewhere?
Gummer: I wanted to take collage one step further, moving away from a two-dimensional piece to something I could be involved within, something larger, like my paintings at school. I missed working large and my collage was becoming less tactile, so I decided to create a life-size collage. This work used a colleague and myself as models within the set. It took several days to set up and change as there was three separate sets. Each were created separately and hung together and then I photographed myself or my model within each set. These were quite complex, and I wanted multiple images so I kept to the restrictions of a photography studio, as well as keeping it as private as possible for the nude images.
Rumpus: You examine the female body in many ways, not just with your collage but in your other work as well. How important is that to you?
Gummer: To me using a woman just feels right. There is something so beautiful about the female form that draws me to it. I feel I use women in a lot of my work as it represents myself; it makes my work very personal to me. The female form works well with my interests in nature too, mimicking the landscapes around us with rolling hills and rivers. I also have a strong interest in fashion and fashion photography, and how these images around us represent women. Although I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, what woman doesn’t want equal rights? Women have so many pressures in life, how to look, how we should act and present ourselves, and my work reflects that, not always purposely but sometimes subconsciously I’ll add something into a collage that represents how I feel.
Rumpus: How do you promote your work? Do you know a lot of collage artists in the UK?
Gummer: After just finishing university I haven’t really promoted myself at all, although I’d love too. My main promotion is social media, uploading my work and sharing it with as many people as possible and hoping people will appreciate it and share it themselves with friends and family. I know a few artists, and not many personally. I worked once with Martin O’Neill at my university doing a workshop creating collage with restrictions.
Rumpus: Can you geek out for me and tell me how you make your work—I mean, do you use scissors or do you tear? Do you prefer certain kinds of books or magazines? A type of glue? Do you avoid using certain elements?
Gummer: My collages really depend on what I have lying around. Being a student it was always a struggle to find material, I was skint, really skint… so I’d collect anything I could find that I found interesting… other peoples work from uni they had discarded or left lying around… I was like yes I’m having that. I’d go to the library and spend a whole day searching through old books finding pictures I liked and lugging them all to the scanner and collecting material, but printing cost a lot. Otherwise I’d collect alternative fashion magazines or more artsy magazines like Oh Comely, Pop, or Dazed and Confused, as they would have great artistic photography of mainly women in odd poses, and using fashion mags also helped me to subvert the norm around us. I usually do whatever I feel works best with the image: cutting, ripping, digital. I did a whole project on cosmetic surgery, ripping facial features from glossy magazines and sewing them onto my own photographed portraits—this was all about the drastic nature of cosmetic perfection, the pain we would go through to meet an ideal beauty. Hand sewing was a time-consuming and painful process. I’m personally not too fussy about vintage. It seems a lot of collage artists are in love with vintage, and I can appreciate the quality of image and texture and tone of the paper, but I prefer to mix it up a little. I love vintage botanical images of plants, that slightly yellow toned paper looks great with modern day CMYK printing processes. For glue, I use a good old cheap Pritt Stick. I’m all about the image in the moment, not a lasting effect.
Rumpus: Can you tell me about your connection to the World Wildlife Federation?
Gummer: I started a project exploring the concept of effects we have on our planet—pollution, extinction, deforestation—and wanted to create hard-hitting images that represent the effects with a more personal approach. You see all these posters with images of the effects we cause and we take one look and go, “Awww… that’s bad…” and do nothing to change it. Our planet is a beautiful place and we need to preserve it. Be Aware was a project creating collages of images collected from old National Geographic magazines of people acting out damaging effects on our planet, like putting out a cigarette in a forest or tearing the world apart. WWF was just a landing pad, using the logo and information from their site to create meaning to the images, turning them from just an image into an informative poster or advertisement.
Rumpus: You mentioned earlier this year on your blog that you feel like you haven’t found your style. Is that something that concerns you, or are you okay with evolving and learning as you go?
Gummer: I don’t think you ever have one style. I feel my work is still growing and evolving. I don’t think I like the thought of stopping that, getting stuck in a “style” as such. Yes, I have themes and factors running through my work, but it is forever changing, twisting, and developing, and hopefully will continue to throughout my life as my feelings, interests, and life changes. That’s what’s so fun about it. It’s daunting at the moment, finishing uni and finding my way in a commercial world. Currently, my work revolves around photography, layers, and collage. But what will my work boil down to eventually? I’m an artist and I can be and do whatever I want to do with my work.