Archive for the 'N G Armstrong' Category

All Things Collage: Year Three

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Jamie Wyeth said, “You have to love a medium to work in it.” I have developed such an enthusiasm for collage that I also have been writing about it for three years at this blogsite. Miniatures are at the heart of what I enjoy doing most. The remarks accumulating here center on my recognition that what I can bring to the practice evolves from an ongoing investigation of the small format. When I do create larger pieces, I would hope that they are informed by my study of tiny, intimate visual relationships. Increasingly, I am embedding the miniature collage into these sized-up artworks, exploring the contrasts of scale and persuading the observer to step in very close — to interact with the ingredients at the artist’s viewing distance.

Over the coming year, I plan to profile other collage artists who exalt the small, and to highlight some of the “categories” of collage that recently have sparked my interest.

What’s in store?
• Merz-meisters: the dedicated aestheticians
• Endurance of the surreal face in collage
• The exemplars of erotic minimalism
• Die-hard collaborators gone wild
And, of course, much more . . .

When I used to put too much on my plate at meal time, my “Mombo” would say, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” Perhaps there is an analogy to piling up my wish list for future entries, and I probably have made a few promises to readers that so far I have not kept. I shall do my best, and remind myself during year four that it’s not what one says about art that matters most.

Nancy Gene Armstrong
Who else recalls that nostalgia can be so surreal?

Laura Tringali Holmes
A diversity of approach — her singular sensibility.

Allan Bealy
This provocative soloist is a relentless collaborator.

Katrien De Blauwer
If you ever figure out how she does it, let me know.

Matthew Rose
He seriously does not take himself seriously. Seriously.

Windows of Opportunity

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Windows Of Opportunity ~ collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon

Windows of Opportunity
collage miniature for mail art by J A Dixon
4 x 5 inches
collection of N G Armstrong

More than a dalliance this time . . .

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

“The best part about mail art is that you don’t have to be there in person to be in on the action.”
— Anna Banana

First of all, I must admit I do not know all that much about the practice of “postal art.” Although I have mailed thousands of gift art items over the decades (usually disguised as greeting cards), I have never considered myself a “mail art” enthusiast, having had only indirect contact with the popular activity. I am aware that Ray Johnson was a seminal force in the phenomena, and that many think he envisioned the virtual community long before today’s online social networks took hold. Blogsites such as Jennie Hinchcliff’s exuberant every day should be a red letter day have enabled me to experience an enthusiasm for the genre in a vicarious way. For those who create collage, the art form has overlapped with collaboration to some degree, with the essential exchange of creations taking place. Like many artists, I have some major problems with the “art world” as an entrenched, elitist institution, but, because I have no philosophical bias against the idea of an “art marketplace,” the correspondence art movement never has had much of a grip on my sentiments or available time. Nevertheless, I strongly identify with the inclusiveness and magnanimity at the heart of the practice.

I am not entirely sure why I responded to a recent mail art proposition from Nancy Gene Armstrong, but I had taken note of her work for the first time last year and the appeal of having an example of it arrive for me in the mail was undeniable. It came as a vertical design, nearly 26 inches tall, that unfolded in a paced, rolling presentation. Below are two exquisite details from her generous offering.

mail art detail ~ Nancy Gene Armstrong


mail art detail ~ Nancy Gene Armstrong

two mail art details
collage by N G Armstrong
collection of J A Dixon

On Nostalgia in Collage

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

“ . . . what I am hoping to do is discover if it is possible to separate nostalgia and collage art, or determine whether the two are inextricably entwined.”
— Joel Lambeth

In a blog entry last month, collage artist Joel Lambeth asked the challenging question, “Is collage inherently nostalgic?” It is one of the more provocative pieces about our medium that I have read this year, although a bit wordy in places. Admittedly, most working collage artists like us who maintain blogs that purport to be more than an online portfolio are not the finest writers alive, and I salute him for not choosing to approach the topic in a superficial way. Nevertheless, it is always risky to generalize about anything, but Lambeth cuts deeply into the subject to probe the history and heart of collage as an art form, and he manages to avoid a semantic discourse on the definition of the word “nostalgia.” His thoughtful viewpoints have sparked a desire on my part to weigh in (with what also may prove to be an entry more verbose than usual).

The groundbreaker Max Ernst worked with vintage engravings, perhaps to emphasize his anti-traditionalist intentions.a Joseph Cornell aviary assemblage He influenced Joseph Cornell, who captured feelings of personal nostalgia with innovative effects that were as cutting-edge as they were fixated on musings about the past. When analyzing collage artwork with respect to the idea of nostalgia, we must take into consideration the artist’s motivation in addition to the overall character of the medium. When I look at current examples from the daily waves of creative output, it is clear that nostalgia in collage plays out along a spectrum or continuum like nearly every other feature of the process, whether it be minimalism/maximalism, realism/surrealism, or representation/abstraction.

It is surprising to me how many contemporary collage artists work exclusively with old ingredients, but that does not mean necessarily that their agenda is merely to traffic in sentimentality. Sara Caswell-Pearce and Nancy Gene Armstrong are among those who appear to harness nostalgia as a conscious objective in their work while achieving a broad balance of artistic creativity. Many collage artists, such as Carolina Chocron, Nikki Soppelsa, Ross Carron, Fred Litch, Laura Collins, and Frank Voigt are more apt to generate nostalgic tones as a byproduct of incorporating vintage ingredients into strong compositions. Only these individuals could clarify to what degree they actively try to convey impressions of an era gone by. The versatile Zach Collins and Randel Plowman, although they frequently work with obviously old paper, both seem to be engaged in ongoing visual investigations more primary than any sense of nostalgia embedded in their finished works.

Lambeth compares the nostalgic impulse to the process of collage itself and concludes by suggesting “that at a very base level collage and nostalgia have more in common than they do separating them.” He acknowledges the contemporary effort to transcend the inherent bias that the medium may have toward nostalgia. Perhaps he, Marc Deb, Launa Romoff, Andrew Lundwall, Teri Dryden, and numerous other artists are making the push beyond any fundamental nostalgic essence. If so, collage, after more than a hundred years, is cycling back to its roots, when Kurt Schwitters, who always considered himself a painter, became convinced that the pasted detritus of his environment was equally as legitimate as a brushstroke of oily pigment.

Midnight Gambol: Or Why The Bees Slept In Every Morning
mixed-media collage by Sara Caswell-Pearce

A Boy and a Swan
collage by Nancy Gene Armstrong

descosiendo el cuadrilátero
collage by Carolina Chocron

Napoleon shows his hand
collage by Nikki Soppelsa

collage by Fred Litch

Nubecula Cum Ovi
collage by Ross Carron

collage by Laura Collins

collage by Fred Voigt

collage on wood panel by Zach Collins

August Night
collage by Randel Plowman

Ripping It Up
collage by Joel Lambeth

Imperfect Parallels
collage by Marc Deb

the parrot (detail)
mixed-media collage by Launa D Romoff

mixed-media collage by Andrew Lundwall

9 Lives
mixed-media collage by Teri Dryden