May 24, 2007
the art of finding
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers...
If I were to name one artist that had the greatest influence on me, it would be Joseph Cornell. It was not only the solitude in which he worked that fascinated me, or the incredible influence he’s had on more famous artists like Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, etc., but specifically his love of the found object. His accumulated a basement full of found objects, odds & ends, and papers that he procured by rummaging through bookstores and nickel & dime stores for countless hours.
I wonder what a person like Joseph Cornell would have thought of a place like Paper Source or Michaels. Would he have cringed or been enthralled with the vast arrays of papers and stamping and cutting devices? We live in an age when people often do not have (or find) the time, resources, or patience to search for and accumulate objects, papers, etc. that inspire them.
What I find so wonderful about Cornell’s work, as well as many collage artists such as Camilla Engman and Gracia Haby, is their use of everyday papers and found objects. Not only is it unique in its origin but it also documents a time or place. The act of some documentation in artwork has been a long time fascination of mine and drawn me to artists who collect and document like Candy Jernigan.
Collage can be a wonderful medium to begin an exploration into the art and craft world. It can also be a way to think of art from a green perspective by using recycled materials that have not been made specifically for scrapbooking or collage. People often ask me where I find papers to collage with, so I thought I might suggest some tips on where to find interesting vintage, recycled papers and objects to inspire you.
Library: Generally I believe it is sacrilegious to cut up a book but sometimes you can find books that are falling apart to cut up or scan old books for digital collages. I often find old books at local library sales. After perusing the $1 + books for real reads, I head straight for the cheapest books for collage. Books like Readable Relativity probably are not going to be read again, are usually out of date, and often have beautiful handwritten notes inside of them.
Thrift and Antique stores/Flea Markets: It is amazing what you can find at thrift stores... old books, clippings & such, postcards, playing cards, stamps, National Geographics, etc. Keep your eyes open and I guarentee you will find little odds and ends that will be wonderful to work with. I also often find fancy Fiskars punching tools, scissors, etc. while I am at it!
Garage/Estate sales: These are often mecca for the collage artist. Combing through an estate or garage sale can give you a little glimpse of a piece of history because it is all from one person or family. It always makes me a bit sad to see their objects sold away but in a way there is somethign karmic about using something so personal for art.
Ebay: I use this for specifics. For example, I am really inspired by old science textbooks. There might be something from your childhood or experiences that you’d like to use for collage. These types of objects tend not to be expensive on ebay but beware of shipping costs!
Your everyday: This is where people usually don’t look for objects or papers to work with, yet your everyday is perhaps the most interesting place to look. I never pass a pile of papers in the trash or boxes of stuff by the dumpster without a quick check. Any time our department is throwing out old junk, they know to check with me first. Keep an eye out… that laundry ticket could be the beginning of something beautiful.