Thursday, November 17, 2011

When Creating Art is an Act of Historic Preservation

Over the years, while working on collages, I began to see how using source material from a certain period could “date” a piece. I do not mean to imply that by “dating” a piece it’s somehow out of fashion. But rather I am using the term “dating” in the sense of freezing time. When I use older source material in a contemporary piece, I am creating something akin to a time capsule. So much of the material I use is destined for landfills and recycling bins. When I repurpose the material for a work of art, it in turn also becomes preserved in a way other than the placing it in a drawer or mylar envelope.

A collage can be a way to preserve various ephemera. Even after a little cutting, you are setting the material in some sort of glue for the ages. But when I start cutting, there is usually little of that kind of preservation going on. I tend to work with small pieces — thousands of small pieces. But even after I cut material into little pieces and reconfigure it, what I still do preserve is the color. And color can really change over time. Some shades of a color are very distinct to a certain time.

For example, when you see a distinct shade of a color it can trigger a memory. The color may bring an image to mind or specific point in time. It happens when you see a color like the original blue on a classic car and immediately realize that particular blue was only used on cars during the 1960’s. Memory triggering color may also be associated with clothing, household objects, old photos or printed material. It might be the shade of baby blue or pink that reminds you of a vintage telephone. There are distinctive shades of red and blue that were used as backdrops in advertising photos in the 1950’s. The olive green and harvest gold kitchen appliances of the 1970’s are unmistakable. Dig deep in the closet and something in a very bright yellow or purple (or both) might fall out. It’s probably a shirt that hasn’t seen the light of day since Daddy Bush was president.

As I cut up things like old maps, atlases, vintage postcards and discarded magazines and books my first purpose is just to make a work of art. I work in the present. But, I also understand that I am preserving color palettes that are disappearing.

Some examples of some Palette Preservation can be seen above and much more is at

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