When you think of the word collage, your mind may travel to school art classes or perhaps to Matisse’s Cut-Outs, likely the most well-known examples of the art created in the early ‘40s. Collage, from the French word meaning to glue, can be defined as a piece of art created by combining an assemblage of different forms such as papers, clippings, photos, maps and other printed material, with the idea of crafting a new whole. It is said that the term was coined by both Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in the beginning of the 20th century. German artist Kurt Schwitters, active in the early 20th century, is considered the King of Collage. Many contemporary artists follow his lead.
One of these artists is the Arts Barn’s new resident artist Jeanne Sullivan. Sullivan moved into the Arts Barn studio that she shares with three other artists in early October, following the building’s renovation. Her primary focus is to continue work on her own art while furthering collage concepts by teaching classes and running a summer camp for teens.
“Collage is very different,” Sullivan explained. “It’s both abstract and realistic. You can bring all the media in—stencils, drawing, old paintings. It is the best recycled art!”
At the University of Maryland, Sullivan focused on art, recreation and urban studies. Always interested in art, but not with the intent of a career, she worked her way through high school and college in recreation, planning classes and events and hiring staff. Eventually she landed at the Montgomery County Department of Recreation, recruiting program instructors.
An acrylic painter, she also learned printmaking. “Looking for art I could do in a short period of time to stay active” was how her small collage projects evolved— wood bracelets, pendants, greeting cards and miniatures. At the time, she was working, her husband was traveling, and she was at home with two small children. There wasn’t a surplus of time to engage her creative desires. She continued to experiment, progressing to larger pieces, fabric bags and giclee prints. “I am fascinated with papers—collecting them, some will strike an idea in me. Thrift and antique shows sell old papers and I’m attracted to these as well as travel maps and brochures. I buy old dictionaries and items in other languages and sheet music.”
After two years as BlackRock’s director of education and feeling motivated to do her own thing, she rented a studio at Artists & Makers (A&M) in Rockville, where she firmly established herself as a collagist for four years prior to joining the Arts Barn. At A&M, she further fine-tuned her technique, combining additional mediums and always venturing into new themes and ideas.
“When I create my collages, I use a variety of collage and painting techniques to express a feeling, atmosphere or story,” she said. “Often there are several layers of collage and mixed mediums. I want viewers to see something more the closer they get to the piece—and more each time they look.”
Recently, a new approach has surfaced.
”I’ve become fascinated working with prints of fish after gyotaku, a Japanese technique that uses real fish,” Sullivan said. “I use rubber fish molds and print on rice paper with water-soluble ink and rubbing.”
She practices with different fish and experiencing their textures using a minimum of three to four colors per work. Her newest piece in this “fish period” incorporates tea and sepia-colored browns and is named “School of Gifted Fish.” Her favored substrate is cradled board, and she constantly flirts with various glues and textures. Collages are finished with two coats of varnish.
“It is a fascinating medium,” Sullivan said of collage. “More and more people are becoming aware of all the media that is out there. They are starting to discover it and recognize it as an art form on its own.”
As resident artist, Sullivan is delving into new media such as painting and collaging using hot and cold encaustic wax. “My arts education is constantly evolving. I give lots of credit to my collage classes in Takoma Park with Katie Kaufman. Beyond the techniques perfected, I also learn so much from other students. No matter your medium, I always think classes or workshops are a great idea. They also force you to finish your work.”
Visit the studio anytime that the Arts Barn is open for a chat to learn more about collage and see her work or contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.