Why does the “remix” quality of collage strike fear into the heart of many art “traditionalists”? I think it’s because COLLAGE ART is REVOLUTIONARY — it helps us to see familiar images in new and interesting ways that can potentially destabilize the status quo. In short, it reminds us to GET LOST in order to find ourselves again and again.
Collage in its simplest form is a piecing together of our individual experience of reality. Our thoughts and perceptions are in a constant state of change and rearrangement, so it makes sense that art which reminds us of this impermanence can sometimes be perceived as difficult or unsettling. Getting lost or “losing ourselves” through art and in the world takes on a whole new transformative meaning.
This is what excites me about collage illustration art, especially in the realm of interior decor and surface design — it has the potential to increase our awareness of our environments and to reconsider the images in the world that we often take for granted. I discuss these ideas more in the piece I wrote for the Art & Science issue #50 of UPPERCASE Magazine:
Everyday we engage with patterns and images of the natural world. However, this natural symmetry and beauty is often taken for granted due to either its macroscopic universality or its microscopic invisibility to the human eye.
My recent collage illustrations aim to interrupt this tendency by transforming images from vintage scientific illustrations, charts, and diagrams into surreal dreamscapes. The research, selection, and manipulation of data that goes into each artwork mirrors that of the scientist as they observe, categorize, and document processes of transformation and change.
Working with imagery from botany and biology resources in the public domain, my art strives to enact the process of defamiliarization, a literary term that means to “make the familiar unfamiliar in order to see it in a new way.” Protozoa resemble mid-century vases, microbes and insect wings emerge as flowers, shells and echinoderms transform into fabulous hats, and dreamy fungi and waterfall landscapes reimagine scientific observations into worlds that are both familiar and new.
A common foundation of collage, pattern design, and science is the promise of discovery inherent in new combinations of the smallest of things. By piecing together seemingly random bits, an artistic composition or a scientific study can reveal new meaning, inspire possibility, or dramatically impact our relationship with the natural world.