Sunday, March 21, 2010
This came out of working on my real Collagitation Blog header (under construction.) The woman’s face, above, is my own version of an image widely used in contemporary altered art. In fact, she has a collagitation pedigree! The original face (said to be based Edwardian-era opera singer Lina Cavalieri) inspired the great designer Piero Fornasetti to create his “Tema e Variazioni” collection of hundreds of ceramic plates, each adorned with a variation of the original face. I’m using my variation of her partly in homage to Fornasetti, whose work I love. Just for fun, I added that little thought balloon in response to the somewhat puzzled expression I gave her. I don’t know if it will appear in the final product, but it got me thinking about—what is Collagitation, anyway?
Semantically, Collagitation is a portmanteau of “collage” and “cogitation” (with some “agitation” occasionally thrown in.) All of which reflects my love of words, if nothing else! When I try to write I often have to avoid sounding pompous or like a 19th c treatise, because I so love using “big words” and elongated phrases, the results of a life time of continuous broad reading. I also like the idea of an invented word, an absurd word, in the surrealist sense (an oxymoron, yippee!), because of course surrealism is integral to collagitation. Therein lies its simple essence: playing with images, to alter their meanings and associations, as in all classic collage and, currently, altered art. It is fantasy art, but unlike the formal genre of that name, it does not use realistic methods to render imaginary worlds, but rather interjects the fantastic into the “real” world, to amuse, or alarm, and always (hopefully) to offer witty visual food for thought.
There were/are many masters of collagitation from whom to draw inspiration, as well as sheer pleasure from viewing their work. One of my favorites is surrealist Max Ernst, who created the incredible collage novel, Une Semaine de Bonté. Anyone interested in 20th c art is familiar with Ernst, but I am always surprised that Fornasetti is much less well known. I assume this is because he was primarily a designer and so his work is not given the same weight as that of “pure” artists. Go figure. If you are unfamiliar with the work of this modern master, do yourself a favor and visit the official website, http://www.fornasetti.com. You will need to play with the bee on the woman’s face to enter the site, have fun!
Pondering my current work in light of my aspirations for Collagitation, it is clear I need to step things up a bit. Not only in terms of amount of work produced, but especially in the quality. As I continue to refine my signature style and to create work worth offering for sale, I realize that I must go way beyond ATCs and match-box shrines. Also, in working so much recently with these very egalitarian, accessible forms, am I “dumbing down” my work? Or, am I merely following in a style that others have been putting forth for years? Hopefully, if I am being inspired and/or influenced, it is by the best of this type of work (because God knows there’s plenty of abysmal “art” to be seen on the internet), and also creating work that is distinctly “mine,” like the Burning Heart ATC. As for the format, what is the size limit of a piece of real art? That’s a no-brainer!
I think part of this interior discussion (which I am attempting to externalize here) comes out of running into an old acquaintance last night at a Squonk Opera performance. Patricia has been doing cutting-edge and conceptual work for decades, and next Fall she has a show at Pittsbugh Center for the Arts, one of the region’s premier art exhibition spaces. Envious? You bet. But also inspired, and happy for her that her career is going so well and she continues to be so productive. And, chatting with her got me thinking more about the direction I want to take my own work. Which is, for now, a store on Etsy. Beyond that…we’ll see.
Obviously, Collagitation is going to require much thought and hard work. Here I am!
Fornasetti: Designer of Dreams by Patrick Mauriés (1991, Little Brown & Co)
Une Semaine de Bonté by Max Ernst (1934; currently available through Dover Publications)