Friday, January 16, 2015


This is one of the first digital collages I ever made.
Since things can be combined in many ways; it really offers a lot of possibilities. 

Before Mark Strand became one of the great contemporary American poets, he trained as a painter. At Yale in the nineteen-fifties, he studied under the color theorist Josef Albers, and throughout his life he has continued making paintings, prints, and collages. In recent years, Strand, a former Poet Laureate of the United States and professor of literature, most recently at Columbia, has moved away from writing altogether to focus on art. A collection of his collages, made in Madrid and New York, is currently on display at the Lori Bookstein gallery, in Chelsea. Over e-mail, I asked Strand about collage, color theory, and the connection between his poetry and his art. (In the questions, I refer several times to an interview with Dr. Melissa Birdwell—actually, a tongue-in-cheek interview Strand conducted with himself for the catalogue that accompanied an exhibit of his collages last year in Shanghai.)

The collage pieces currently [no longer] on display at Lori Bookstein are made not from found materials but from paper you made and colored yourself, at the Dieu Donné artists’ space here in New York. Can you explain a little about the paper-making process—what draws you to it and how you incorporate it into your collages?

Well, making paper is fun. Mixing pigment with pulp and adding the blend to the pulp that will eventually become a sheet of paper is wonderfully absorbing. With something called “formation aid” I use my hands to create the various swirls, swoops, drops, and dribbles that bind with the basic sheet of pulp. That basic sheet can be thick or thin, opaque or transparent, black or white or any color I wish. This is the first stage in the making of my collages. I make papers that I believe I can use or that I envision using. I am helped by [the Dieu Donné founder] Sue Gosin, who got me started making paper.

In your interview with Dr. Birdwell, “she” points out that your work has less in common with that of surrealist-collage artists like Kurt Schwitters than with the playful paintings of artists like Paul Klee or de Kooning, who, early in his career, painted simple geometric shapes. Francine Prose, who wrote the introduction to Lori Bookstein’s exhibition catalogue, observed that the torn scraps in your pieces seem to be exchanging “playful, private jokes.” Is making these collages a fun, joyful process for you?I wanted to make collages that looked something like paintings, and that did not look like other people’s collages. I did not want mine to be literary in any way or to suggest the surreal. I started collaging as an escape from making meaning. I got tired of writing poems, of trying to make sense—verbal sense. It is a relief to make a different kind of sense—visual sense. One must think, of course, but it is an entirely different kind of thinking, one in which language does not intrude. Cutting and tearing paper and pasting the pieces down gives me an immense amount of pleasure. It is as if I were in kindergarten again.

From The New Yorker article by Rachel Arons, Sept 24, 2013:
"Mark Strand’s Playful Collages"

It is interesting to think about collage and how things jostle and push against each other when combined when one is writing poetry.

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