I am a self-taught Pennsylvania artist based in Bellefonte, who works in collage, painting and creating art from found objects.
My love of creating and sharing art developed during my childhood living between the Juniata River and an expanse of woods, fields and ponds. I grew up on the grounds of Beacon Lodge Camp for the Blind (now known as Beacon Lodge), where my family worked with people with special needs. I loved that place. But growing up in that remote area, with few other children around, I early on turned to sketching, painting and photography as a way to entertain and express myself. Turning to art to examine and understand my life continues to this day.
However, collage was not an art form I was exposed to as a child. My experience with collaging was limited to a day spent covering Coke bottles with pictures cut out of Teen Beat magazine. But about 15 years ago, I was working on a portrait I was painting of an unknown imagined woman. The painting was nearly finished and I was happy with the image, but the woman seemed a bit lost and rather ambivalent. I was pondering how to enliven the painting and give my subject more emotion, a personality, a history. Who was she? What was she thinking about? While ruminating, I noticed the local newspaper lying open to the “wedding announcements” page (I have no idea why). Almost immediately that section of newspaper spawned an idea that addressed all the elements I was looking to bring to the piece.
I whitewashed that wedding announcements page, cut out the painted portrait, and affixed it to the newspaper. The addition of the newspaper page, and what was printed on it, added depth and visual interest. And importantly, my lady now had a voice, and a history.
A door had opened to a new medium of creative expression. I was hooked!
One of the coolest aspects of collaging that I most enjoy is the way each piece evolves. Usually, I start out with a particular image or object that I find compelling and build from there. As I work, a story starts to unfold — and I follow where it takes me — with the subject matter leading to the elements and final format. Issues weighing on my mind often find their way into the narrative as well, reflected in elements of social commentary running through many of the collages. While the creative process is often a conversation with myself, I hope the result may open a space for the viewers to explore their own perceptions.
As a self-taught artist, opening the doors of creative self-reflection and expression through art to everyone is important to me. Collage is a welcoming medium for both the audience and the artist. Drawing on objects and images from daily life, collage can break down artificial barriers to entry, such as expensive materials and lessons, and open avenues for creativity and exploration.
And it’s pretty darn fun.