Have you ever made a collage? Collaging is a fun and enriching experience and it is easy to get started. I think that collaging is useful for confronting anxiety about the sheer amount of stuff we encounter all the time. When you think about the amount of materials we generate, even at Lawrence, from paintings to printed articles to plastic bags, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. I see collaging as a way of responding to that feeling by making something personally meaningful out of materials that have already been used for something else.
Collage as a visual artist’s technique is commonly traced back to the early 20th century, and there are some Victorian photo collages that date back to the 1860s. For about the last 150 years, people have practiced collaging widely and diversely using different media, methods and philosophies, exploring the way collaging blurs the boundaries between visual art, music and literature. It is easy to see why something so interdisciplinary is popular at Lawrence. Many students I know consider collage to be an interest or hobby of theirs. For example, at last week’s student-organized Uncovered Art Show, many students showed works with collage elements and influences. Artist Tshab Her, whose painting and fiber art is featured in the Wriston Galleries right now, uses collage techniques in some of her pieces.
Collaging is a great outlet for stress and the barrier to entry is so low. To get started, save your old newspapers, photos, mail and interesting trash, or go buy a stack of old magazines at a thrift store. Cut out images and words that stick out to you then attach them together somehow. Part of what’s so fun about it is the unpredictability—you don’t always know what will happen when you put two things together. I enjoy laying everything out and rearranging it over and over to see what sorts of connections form between the materials. Junior Kate Martenis said she likes “how simple it is to change things. It’s really easy to see what your piece will look like once you tape everything down, but it’s also the easiest thing in the world to rearrange.” This kind of flexibility combined with overall affordability makes collage great for students who are locked into busy schedules and need a creative release.
After making some collages, you may start to feel that more and more things in the world seem like collages to you. Collages can inspire new writing and research directions and allow you to imagine all kinds of new possibilities. Collaging with personal documents and family photos is a powerful way to process memories and emotions. Collaging with print media frequently involves working with advertisements and photos, which is an opportunity to consider your relationship to the media you consume. Fifth-year Meghan Murphy said that collaging “gives me a chance to have more agency over the media I consume by giving me space to question and reinterpret common media narratives.” Give collaging a shot and see what happens!