"I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.
I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given the chance of having a starting point of zero.
I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap & still comes out on top.
I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is necessary.
I am for an art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself."
- Claus Oldenburg (1961)
I started collaging during my third year of college at the University of Notre Dame. Our third project in Prof. Jason Lahr's oil painting class read: make a collage and paint it. I felt overwhelmed - pandora's box opened in my head. At the end, I was proud of my painting, but marveled in the ideas my classmates spliced together, the collisions they created. Soon afterward one of my friends in the class, Ellie Reynolds, introduced me to collage artist Beth Hoeckel. That was her job title - collage artist. That was how she made a living. I didn't know that was an available career trajectory. I felt both stunned and inspired.
That summer I stumbled on a pile of vintage LIFE and LOOK magazines from the 1960s/70s which had been donated to a public library in St. Louis, MO. These must be the kind of vintage materials that Beth Hoeckel uses I thought. I picked them up in my hands, feeling the gently yellowed edges, imagining the decades of sunlight and vacant attics they knew so well. I imagined handing out a business card reading "Garrett Blad - collage artist". I imagined myself looking back at a portfolio of my work, or seeing a collage of mine above a New York Times blog. I imagined people wanting to buy my work like Beth Hoeckel. I ran down the street to Dick Blick Art Materials and bought an X-Acto knife and a glue stick.
During my final semester of college, Spring 2015, I took an Art History course and stumbled on the work of Eduardo Paolozzi. A Scottish artist, Paolozzi helped to establish the British Proto-Pop movement. His early work (late 1940s to 1960s) consists largely of collage art that explores tensions between high art and popular culture, the erotic nature of consumerism, popular representation of gender and war, and the new design concept of 'artificial obsolescence'. Collage inspired everything Paolozzi created as an artist from sculpture to printmaking. Collage provided fertile soil in which Paolozzi could process and create.
It was love at first sight. The magic, the mystery, the raw nature of Paolozzi's collages captivated my imagination. So when I graduated from Notre Dame in 2015 and decided to join Morgan Curtis as the visual arm of Climate Journey, a six-month climate storytelling cycling project, I brought my X-Acto knife and glue stick. Collage would be my storytelling medium.
In case you are ever curious of doing it yourself, collaging while traveling by bicycle is not easy. Not easy at all. I struggled to find places and time to cut and paste with the materials I was collecting. When I could, I spliced together both pieces of our story and ideas that our journey had generated. Four years studying environmental science and policy had primed my mind for the journey. Naturally, ideas popped up like dandelions - unpredictably and abundantly. Unfortunately, most never made their way out onto paper...until I came back to the US in early January 2016.
With a sturdy table and ample time, I'm back at it, trying to get all of these ideas bouncing around in my head out on paper. Inspired by collage-a-day artist Colleen McCulla, I decided to make one collage every day for the entire 2016 year and post them to social media. Thankfully, the ideas from Climate Journey are still there (well...most of them at least), waiting to be cut into life.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me.