Collage days

The cover page for two showings of my work, in 2003 at red ink studios in Palo Alto and in 2005 at the Stanford Humanities Center:


The big point here is that I consider these works (and two other sets of collages) to be art — eccentric art, perhaps, but nevertheless art. For many people, this is a problematic claim, so I’m somewhat defensive.

Background: I’ve posted a great many of my collages, on AZBlogX and this blog, in three sets, with links in three sets:

academic collages (comic, or at least wry, but not X-rated) here

gay collages (mostly X-rated) here

miscellaneous collages (not X-rated, though some, like the “Lesbo Brides” series, are lgbt-themed or, like many of the tool collages, incorporate phallic symbols) here

(Kim Darnell and I have been laboring for some time to organize the images in these postings for ease of reference, and to finish posting the complete set of collages. Stay tuned.)

What makes this material problematic as art, that is, Art?

One, many in the art world seem to believe that collage is mere crafts, or at best folk art, except in the hands of an established artist.

Two, many in the art work look askance at works that are intended to be entertaining; they see comic works as impure and unserious (again, except in the hands of an established artist).

Three, many in the art world look askance at works with high erotic content (naked bodies, sex acts), especially homoerotic content; they see such works as potentially “mere pornography”, intended as an aid to arousal and therefore tainted as serious art (again, except in the hands of an established artist).

So creating homoerotic comic collages is a kind of trifecta of art-world marginality. But still I persist.

For some time my collages were seen only by friends or by visitors to my condos, where they were displayed out of general public view. Then came red ink studios.  From a 6/17/10 posting, “Late spring 2003”, where part 1 tells the story of Linda Hughes and her red ink studio (“a band of roving gypsies, wandering artists who temporarily borrow unleased office space from corporations “), then just around the corner from my house in downtown Palo Alto, in April and May 2003.

[May 3] I met some more of the studio’s artists — this is an actual workplace, not just a show gallery (bandsaws were being used, and paint was being brushed) — and three of them clustered around my collages and spent twenty minutes enjoying and critiquing them. Much wild laughter and admiration. And questions about technique and design and intentions. This was totally wonderful. Having interesting and talented people talk to me about my art work truly makes my day. Incidentally, I got to say nice things about theirs.

And then I was part of the show. And it was good.

red ink studios, true to its nature, moved on to other locations, ultimately to San Francisco, where its name gained initial caps and the studio itself moved into a gigantic then-empty space in Mid-Market (1035 Market St.) — and then, eventually, closed. I don’t know what happened to Linda and the others.

On to 2005 and another Linda, Linda Williams. From a 7/27/10 posting “Collage essays: from concealment to display”, with material from the 2005 show:


Some of my Gayland essays are in my voice; these are “academic” in tone, despite their subject and (sometimes) their language. But others (the Collage Essays) speak in another voice, that of an alter ego (call me Alex), and are keyed to two sets of images: images in “male art” (including photography, film, and video as well as painting, drawing, etc.), gay porn, ads (for mass market audiences or specifically aimed at gay men), and so on; and the collages I make from such items as raw material.

(This material was essentially completed while I was at the Stanford Humanities Center in 2005-06. The Center was hospitable enough to sponsor (in November 2005, on the occasion of a visit from Linda Williams of Berkeley) an exhibition of my XXX-rated collages, plus some raw materials that I was working with at the time and drafts of some of these collage essays…)

The collages range from relatively simple postcard-sized works to larger, more complex ones to huge, extraordinarily complex ones.

It’s unlikely that these works will be viewed other than in essentially private showings (like the ones in 2003 and 2005) or in AZBlogX postings; even the simple ones have an assortment of images from multiple sources, most of them under copyright, so they’re all legal nightmares. But in any case there doesn’t seem to be an audience for the works: a while back, I offered to mail (for free) several assortments of copies to readers of this blog, Facebook, and Google+, but got no takers and had them all recycled. Not my happiest artistic moment. But, as I say, I persist.

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