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Posts Tagged ‘collage’

Art: Mary Delany (1700-1788)
Flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus) paper collage.

I’m not sure how I learned about the extraordinary botanical collages of Mary Delany, but as soon as I saw photos of her work, I headed straight to Wikipedia.

There I got enraged for the umpteenth time about the helplessness of women in past centuries (Delany was forced to marry a 60-year-old when she was 17). Finally, I came to this description of her late-blooming avocation.

“In 1771, a widow in her early 70s, Mary began on decoupage, a fashion with ladies of the court. Her works were detailed and botanically accurate depictions of plants.

“She used tissue paper and hand colouration to produce these pieces. She created 985 of these works, calling them her ‘Paper Mosaiks,’ [from] the age of 71 to 88, when her eyesight failed her.

‘With the plant specimen set before her she cut minute particles of coloured paper to represent the petals, stamens, calyx, leaves, veins, stalk and other parts of the plant, and, using lighter and darker paper to form the shading, she stuck them on a black background. By placing one piece of paper upon another she sometimes built up several layers and in a complete picture there might be hundreds of pieces to form one plant. It is thought she first dissected each plant so that she might examine it carefully for accurate portrayal.’ [Hayden, Ruth. Mrs Delany: her life and her flowers] …

Frances Burney (Madame D’Arblay) was introduced to her in 1783, and frequently visited her at her London home. … She had known many of the luminaries of her day, had corresponded with Jonathan Swift [among others], and left a detailed picture of polite English society of the 18th century in her six volumes of Autobiography and Letters (ed. Lady Llanover, 1861–1862).”

More pictures at Wikipedia, here. You may also be interested in this post, about the botanical art of Peter Rabbit creator Beatrix Potter. Potter, as a woman, failed to receive the attention men in science achieved — a century after Delany.

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Longtime readers may recall I took a playwriting class a couple years ago. One of the assignments — which I blogged about here — was to listen in on a conversation in a public place and write it down word for word. Very awkward, but a good lesson in the random way people really talk.

Now the artist/cabby Daniel J. Wilson has taken the concept to an extreme, recording customers’ conversations and using them in his art.

Matt Flegenheimer writes at the NY Times that while driving a taxi in New York, Wilson “secretly recorded the conversations of his passengers, assembled the highlights into an audio collage of the back-seat musings and installed the final product in his taxi, playing the clips for his riders …

“ ‘It’s this world where people act like you don’t exist, even though you’re three feet away,’ Mr. Wilson, 35, said from the front seat of his cab recently. ‘You get this fragment of a person.’ ” More.

Much has been done with the invisibility theme in literature: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, the powerful Mammy in The Sound and the Fury, the murderer disguised as an “invisible” waiter in an Agatha Christie novel — you can probably come up with more.

The Times article discusses the invasion of privacy. I think invasion of privacy might be the penalty for treating humans as invisible.

Photo: Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Victoria Reis, left, called Daniel J. Wilson’s audio collage “the least pretentious and most experimental” work she had seen all week, and tipped him.

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Sunday evening I went over to Concord Academy to hear Seán Curran talk about how he creates choreography. Betsy, one of the dancers from his company, did a beautiful job of demonstrating what he meant.

As a little boy growing up in Watertown, Seán said, he waited eagerly for the mail that brought Look magazine. He liked to cut out pictures and make collages with them.

He says that his approach to choreography is similar. He arranges many snippets or dance phrases in different ways. His challenge is to edit down the many ideas so that the choreography doesn’t topple from too much weight.

I make collages, too. I have always liked the idea of taking a bunch of random things people have said and trying to make a play out of them, for example.

I also make collage greeting cards. I keep a box of promising pictures, cut from magazines and gallery postcards. I go through the whole pile and set aside maybe 20 items that somehow remind me of the person for whom I am making the card. Then I edit them down to the few pieces that will be best for the particular occasion.

All that happens before I cut the shapes and decide on how to arrange them. Sometimes I do a cutout of a cutout and put something else in the space: for example, I cut a vista out of a painting of a window and put a girl in the space (bottom right).

Here are examples.

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I always like visiting the arts and crafts events on the lawn of the historical society.

Sometimes I come home and tackle my own crafts. The collage cards are generally for birthdays, anniversaries, and sympathy. If I remember, I make Xerox copies for future occasions. I’d be happy to post some readers’ photos of their art or their crafts. E-mail me your photos at suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com.

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Earlier this week, I was walking in the Greenway and noticed that new sod had been placed and roped off.

The sign said, “Grass is resting but feel free to hang your art on the rope.” I thought, “Wow, someone in the Greenway Conservancy is really thinking!”

Today I came back. I believe I was the first to hang my art on the rope.

The art is a copy of a collage I made for a greeting card. Actually for a sympathy card when my Aunt Maggie died. She liked purple. I enjoy making greeting cards from collage materials — postcards, magazine art, brochures. I collect these scraps all the time, and when I’m gearing up to make a card for someone, I sift through and pull out pieces that remind me of the person. If I really like the card a lot, I make copies.

A shot of the original card is below.

Comments may be sent to suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com.

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