7 Questions, 7 Artists. | The Known & the Unknowable: The Collage Interview

Undercurrent Projects
Aug 28, 2018 11:32PM

7 Question, Answered.

#1. Without talking about process or using art words, what is your work about?

Julia Oldham: My work is driven by my desire to know the unknowable. I want to be able to talk to animals, travel to a black hole, capture the idea of infinity, and turn into a werewolf. With the art I make, I can do all of those things. I am passionate about science, and I like to create fairy tales that contain aspects of physics and biology. I’m usually the main character in the story.

Kike Congrains: My work it’s all about giving a second chance to images forgotten by time.

Morgan Jesse Lappin: The collage work I make represents me as a Human. It expresses my personality, and the stories that run through my mind, a puzzle that doesn’t exist until my subconscious tells me its complete. I use collage as my form of storytelling.

Jessie Laura: My work explores the workings of the mind. It's also a way to respond to the daily onslaught by visual images; I need to step out and back and re analyze things through abstraction. It's my way to slow down and turn away from the mayhem.

Michele Luger: My work plays a lot with nostalgia and the idea of being nostalgic for a place or time you’ve never lived.

Joseph Karwacki: It is about giving life to something (someone) that can be interacted with on a personal or relatable level. Having company, however brief (or long), and coming away from it with a feeling of wonder. I want to leave the viewer imagining and wondering about the next encounter or continuation of whatever dialog they might have had with the work, good or bad. I would hope they enjoyed each other's company.

Sam Ben-Meir: My work is essentially about creating a new sensibility- taking the ordinary and transforming it into something strange, unfamiliar; so that maybe we are able to see things anew.

#2. Influences that are not artists?

Julia: I find that my biggest inspiration comes from reading and exploring the woods. A couple authors who have been enormously influential for me are: Jean Henri Fabre, a 19th century naturalist who wrote many beautiful and fanciful books about his observations of insect behaviors; and Robin Hobb, a fantasy author who created a rich world called the Elderling Realm that is never far from my thoughts. I also love books about post-apocalyptic futures, like The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. I live in Oregon and spend a lot of time hiking and camping with my three dogs. I get a lot of ideas while I’m in the forest, both from my observations of the strangeness of nature and from the mental space I get from being alone and quiet.

Kike: Human behavior. Mass hysteria. Weird beliefs. Unique people. Cults and religions. Traditions and ethos. The occult. Pop culture. Universal history.

Morgan: I actually run with similar influences as Kike does, as he is my Peruvian brother from another mother. But I need to add some specifics to my list, because to me they are important.

Music: Frank Zappa, The Beatles, Mike Patton, Leonard Bernstein, R. Stevie Moore

Actors: Arnold SchwarzeneggerRobert De Niro, Martin Short, Leonardo Dicaprio, Al Pacino

Jessie: Nature, structure, paradoxes, the unexpected, rhythmic tension, contrast, intuition, infinity, eternity, the human soul.

Michele: The unknown, the hidden away, and deep feelings of nostalgia.

Joseph: Friends, Family, Shop Clerks (owners, cashiers etc.), Animals. Any person or living thing that you might interact with on a daily or routine basis. Video-game characters, or any other fictitious characters I might encounter through books, comic books, manga, cartoons, anime, etc.

Sam: One of the major influences on me has been classic jazz, bebop. I like to think that I take an improvisational approach to my work, with all the rigor that implies - because in jazz improvisation, one is always playing within a certain form. Although there are no rules they can’t be broken there is a harmonic structure which sets up certain parameters.

#3. Same rules as #1. Without talking about process or art words, what unique thing was going through your mind as you were creating your latest work or series?

Joseph: The conversations I might have had with these particular subjects. Events or interactions I may have been a part of or had witnessed from a short distance. What kind of personality they have? I wonder who or what made them wear the face they have? What are they doing, and where are they?  What would it be like if we were friends. What do they or what does it like to eat I wonder?

Morgan: I’m not consistent with my style or approach. I have series here and there, but I’m all over the place. I also jump back and forth through projects, surprised I finish anything at all. Hard to even remember what I was thinking about three minutes ago :)

Jessie: Reconnecting with my spiritual roots, while working on my latest series, I was going through hard times, lots of changes in my life and I needed something to put me together.

Michele: This series was all about experimenting with conveying various moods through faceless characters.

Sam: This is difficult for me to answer because when I’m working I get into a semi-trance like state, all sorts of things may be going through my mind; it’s a bit like dreaming with my eyes open. The truth is I let the work take over while at the same time remaining faithful to the parameters I mentioned earlier.

#4. What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said about your work?


Joseph: "That one's kind of cool, I like the colors" or "That one creeps me out, do you ever make real people? Or just like…monsters or something?"

Morgan: When I first started making collage, I had made a few lewd ones involving the image of a vagina in a strange place… someone came up to me and told me one of those works was one of the most “disgusting” art works she’s ever seen, but told me to take it as a compliment because it moved her to the point of having to share this with me. So, at the same time its one of the greatest compliments i’ve ever gotten.

Kike: Many times I’ve been told that some of my work is a disgrace to good old Christian values and I should burn in hell for doing it. I take it as a compliment.

Michele: I kind of hate that I can’t think of one terrible thing someone has commented. Maybe they just say it behind my back. I think good art inspires haters and I hope one day to have an army of them.

#5. Ok, now you can talk about your process. What are you really, really good at?

Julia: I think the thing I’m very best at is being patient and diligent with labor-intensive media such as hand-drawn animation or seamless Photoshopping. I’m good at pulling 16-hour days of drawing when I need to get something done and need to be very, very focused. I really enjoy busy-work and learning how to do new things, like creating a supernova in After Effects, using YouTube tutorials. I’m terrible at working loosely or gesturally, though, which is the flipside of that, of course.

Kike: Cutting paper. Small intricate details or big pieces, I feel really comfortable with a knife in my hand.

Michele: Slopping it down. I work pretty fast with various media and enjoy learning from my mistakes instead of being too careful. By working quickly I often stumble upon something pretty good weird that I would’ve never discovered had I been too rigid.

Jessie: Finding my color palette:  It's a process as important as the idea itself, I always start  with a basic palette. For this process, I worked with oil painting, mixing them up until I find a set of colors that speaks to me. Composition: I always say that collage is therapeutic, like working on a puzzle with all this endless combinations of colors, forms and contrasts and their relation to each other and to the space. My background as a graphic designer makes this process pleasant yet challenging.

Joseph: Using conventional materials in unconventional ways. Looking to use them in a way i see fit or gradually discover, then creating and honing on my own rules for their uses. Also, constantly making my own tools to implement these rules and unique marks. Giving a personality to what I put on the work surface.

Sam: I think I’m good at working for long stretches, doing extremely laborious and painstaking work.

Morgan: Search for books, mags, etc. / Lose my mind / Cut pages with images i’m attracted to / Lose my mind / organize all pages by theme + file them / Lose my mind / Cut images and organize those / Lose my mind / Make collage / Lose my mind

#6. What’s your idea of an artistic community?

Julia: I love the art community that one can find online. I know people have a lot of bad things to say about social media and how it disconnects us from the “real” world, but as an artist living outside of a major art hub, it’s an amazing and essential tool for me. I am also pretty hermity and like to spend a lot of time alone, and I think that being able to connect to people without having to physically meet is wonderful! I am a big fan of meeting other artists through online networks and developing warm penpal relationships with them. I find writing letters back and forth with other artists to be very fulfilling and inspiring.

Michele: For me Instagram has been one of the greatest ways of connecting with artists far and wide. I’ll often write to artists I enjoy on Instagram and ask questions about process, tools and material as well as offering encouragement. Being a core member of the Brooklyn Collage Collective has luckily brought me close to a group of uniquely talented artists who have taught me a lot about art and community and continue to expand my knowledge every time we work.

Morgan: In 2013 I wanted to create my own collage community, and so the Brooklyn Collage Collective was born.  The idea was to connect with talented collage artists around the world, collaboratively set up exhibits, serve as a design team, and to eventually roll out a publication. We are made up of 4 core members all with unique styles of their own.

Kike: People collaborating with each other for the greater good. Being inclusive and not exclusive. Working together, not competing.

Jessie: Starting to work as a member of the Brooklyn Collage Collective has been extremely fruitful for me as an artist, it has an incredible value to work with like minded artists, each one with a different approach toward collage. We feed each other with new ideas and challenge ourselves to go out of our comfort zone. For us to build a strong community of collage/mixed media artists and promote/elevate collage as a media (which is somehow underrated) is crucial.

Joseph: Support not only as artists but as friends. I don't believe in secrets to making work. I invite the competition. A bond that is created through critique, making, and sharing. In my mind these are the main ingredients in not only improving myself as an artist but also lifting up and helping to improve others. Class, economic status, and (especially) career status hold no weight in the idea of an ideal artistic community.

Sam: The fundamental thing for me is dialogue. That is the basis of all collaboration. To be is to be in dialogue, as one of my philosophy professors once put it. I have found that to be not so far from the truth.

#7. Pick a word or combination: hope, utopia, cynicism, dystopia. Explain.

Julia: Dystopia! In this age of environmental crisis and political upheaval, I think art is an essential means of figuring out strategies for survival through storytelling and innovation. I’m getting ready for the zombie apocalypse.

Sam: You know hope is one of those things that folks love to praise and extoll. And I understand where they’re coming from. But I have a problem with hope--because hope also implies fear. You can’t have hope without fear. On the other hand, utopia is a concept that people have long disparaged. If you want to criticize someone’s social ideas you might call them utopian. I’m of the opinion that we need to be more willing to engage in utopian thought and speculation. That in fact it might be one of the things that saves us in the end.Kike: Dystopia. I have a vivid imagination and if I were to travel to a distant land would definitely be a shady dystopia rather than a perfect utopia. Dystopias are way much fun.

Michele: Dystopia/hope. I have a fascination with the macabre. I’ve always been attracted to things like a dimly lit room, a gloomy dark forest, abandoned cities or hospitals, a war zone, etc. These dark aesthetics don’t depress me but inspire me by their beauty.

Jessie: Hope/Dystopia. With everything that is happening in the world right now, we find ourselves in a place where we need mental, emotional, and spiritual support; personally,  I can find all this things in art. The contrast between this 2 almost opposite concepts is what makes it interesting too

Joseph: Hope. There is hope in everything. With hope comes faith. I don't mean that in a religious sense, but in a human sense. Where this is hope, there is an openness to grow and connect.

Undercurrent Projects