Almah LaVon Rice, Pittsburgh-based writer, mixed-media maker and creativity coach, documents her Postal Collage Project No.12 experience.
This might be my most exuberant collaborative postal collage experience!
It might be because the collagists before me used a delightfully anarchic collection of papers–paper doilies, wrappings from tea, maps, scraps of tape, labels, and other fragments of mysterious provenance. None of it precious, all of it pleasing. The festival of papers inspired me, so for my part I added:
* a sparkled square
* shards of dried acrylic, leftovers from a printmaking project
* a security envelope piece
* a triangle of painted foil
* a particularly colorful, geometric corner of an old brochure
* detritus from a cardmaking workshop I led years ago
* a triangle of jaunty packaging from a box of markers
* a rectangle of spray-painted paper
* a length of sheet music
* fragments from forms in various languages
The finishing touch was adding dimensional paint in lines and dots. The thing is, it was near-impossible to stop! I could spend a few eternities wandering among this wonderfully fractured landscape, this archipelago of papers, shapes, and colors. It reminds me of the first night sky, after the Big Bang. The aftermath of a piñata, detonated. The interior life of a kaleidoscope. This is a world I didn’t want to let go of. But off it must go to the next postal collage accomplice. I dispatch it with kisses, memories of apocalypse, fire. New worlds will come. They always do.
Indeed and forever, Black Lives Matter.
Black collagists, like me, matter.
Right now I’m listening to piano music drifting from a nearby apartment, a stranger’s song hovering gently over all the notes. I’m not at home. Or, more accurately, I’m at home in my home away from home–the home of my friends. Right before I left for my trip I added to Morgan’s starter collage from California but had no time to mail it before it was time for my train to whisk me away. I just packed it in a plain mailer in one of my traveling bags. Now I’m here in Maryland, ready to send this now Almah+Morgan collage to Mac in North Carolina. The friend I am staying with is also an artist so I asked him for supplies to festoon the envelope. He came up with a box of markers and stickers and I got to work (nay, play).
Before I left: Because the trip was imminent (breathing down my neck) and my studio was in disarray, I didn’t feel too jazzed about contributing to a collage. In another room in the house–not the briar patch of my studio–I found a magazine that a friend had sent to me awhile ago. Maybe a year or two ago? In it, I was drawn to vintage images of flowers. Morgan’s starter was a map with ancient gods collaged all over it, a map that included many stats about the ruinous things we are doing to the earth. Yes, the flowers were there and much more accessible than the supplies in my studio, but they also made me remember something I had read about the co-evolution of flowers and humans. So I thought, if we can spread flowers across the globe, what other emblems and artifacts of beauty can we leave around the earth, sea, and sky? The magazine images called to me, and then my memory made a metaphor from that call.
Without knowing it, I am practicing Availablism. I just learned the name of this movement by Kembra Pfahler. But I have been practicing it my whole life, in fact. Found-object aficionad@s, the underresourced, the bricoleurs, the magpies, the collagists, and the assemblage artists–we are mavens of make-do. If necessity is the mother of invention, availability is the father. Just like the neighbor’s singing wreathing my head, I will make use of the available music.
I didn’t know how to start my starter collage.
Well, at least I knew the substrate: a half moon wood panel, already painted yellow. I picked it up in the giveaway pile at a local makerspace, knowing that I could put it to good use one day. Durable are the joys of upcycling and found-object adventuring.
But what collage-y jazz could adorn my wooden .5 moon? I considered the shapes that I loved–whether they appeared in murals, earrings, tattoos, collagraphs, or the spaces between awake and asleep. So: I love stark black and white punched&punctuated by color. So: I love layers that wink, transparencies. So: I love broad continents of color. So: I love lines serpenting all over surfaces. So: I love all dialects of dot, circle, spiral, sphere. I let those loves lead me and my hand, because my brain had no real plans. Think with your hands: a collagist’s credo. As I worked on the collage, I talked to my best friend over video chat. When I told him that the next collaborator in the chain could totally change the piece, he was taken aback. I said, “It’s an object lesson in letting go and enjoying the process.” It appears then that my collaging self is my best self, the most evolved. It’s also the most intuitive version of Almah, the one who knows when to stop adding to the starter. I am trying to leave kindling for the next artist. An ellipsis rather than a period. Paul Gardner said, “A painting is never finished–it simply stops in interesting places.” May my first offering in this 12th postal collage season have stopped there–in the thicket of interesting places.