Saturday, February 12, 2011


"Study of a Bowl"
Fabric Collage 16 x 21
Laura Breitman

I have to admit I've never really understood collage. It's probably like jazz: I never liked it, never understood it, until I actually played it. Then I was converted! If I actually tried collage, perhaps under the tutelage of someone who did understand it, then perhaps I would finally get it and start to appreciate it more. In the meantime, I'm making inroads to understanding and appreciating it, thanks to a couple of internet friends who's blogs I follow. By watching their progress, their insights into process, this art form is becoming less of a mystery to me. And so when I ran across an article in the July/August 2010 issue of The Artists Magazine on collage, I was ready to read it with interest, not skip over it.

The article entitled "Piecing It Together" starts right off by saying that "The technique...speaks to the hectic pace and fragmented vision of our time" and notes that it can be found everywhere "from actual materials affixed to canvases in museums to digital collages that promote products on billboards or online." Ah, digital collages - now that I understand (at least, I think I do). And then it goes on to praise its "ease of entry" i.e. you don't need to know how to draw, that bugaboo that sends so many people into the mindset that they have no artistic abilities. With collage, you find your materials anywhere and everywhere, and it can become "the ideal medium for exploring compositional possibilities...experimenting until you find a pleasing arrangement..."

Surprisingly (at least to me), one of the artist's featured in this article is Laura Breitman who uses fabric instead of paper. A former quilter, Laura now glues instead of sewing on her collage elements to create extremely realistic works based on photographs. Her "glue" is Golden Acrylic Medium. This sounds all too familiar. - if nothing else than from the pages of Quilting Arts Magazine,and the experimentation of many art quilters I'm aware of. If not for the use of acrylic medium followed by a finishing coat of varnish, I'd easily categorize what she does as applique, not collage. Her process is not unlike art quilters who carefully cut shapes from pre-fused fabrics to create pictorial works. I sense another blurring of the lines in art, only in this case, it's quilters moving into an established art medium rather than an established art medium, such as painters, moving into the quilt world.

I'm not saying that what Breitman is doing is not collage - I can definitely see that it is. What I think I am saying is that by recognizing the similarities with a technique in quilting that I am familiar with, I am understanding collage, as well as my own approach to quilt art, a bit better. And wondering if the distinction in classification/terminology - collage vs fused applique perhaps - is justified. Look through her gallery and tell me what you think.


Terry Grant said...

Her work is beautiful. I have wondered if what I do qualifies as fabric collage. Probably. Maybe "stitched fabric collage."

Anonymous said...

I love the one called "Blowing in the Wind"

I've always thought of collage as something you do with modge podge and paper. This blows me away. I wonder what the pieces look like up close? Do they look anything like fused quilts or do they look like paper collages or are they a different look entirely?

I'm back by the way....anytime before Apr 1 you want to do to the museum, give me a nudge.

susan in spokane

The Idaho Beauty said...

No sooner had I posted this entry than I read something similar on Elizabeth Barton's blog. Someone unfamiliar with art quilts and anticipating the worst told her when she brought her work in that they weren't quilts, they were fiber collages. I kind of like that term. Read the post here:

As for Breitman's work, One description in the article of "Maple" says she creates a dense illusion that is much more than a representation of a tree - each leaf is a separate piece of cloth. I imagine even with the varnishing, close up you would see the texture of the layered pieces so might remind us of fused applique. I would like to see one just to know.

June said...

Like Terry, I'm not sure I would classify anything so representational as collage, although as soon as I say that, I wonder "why not?"

I guess I always think of collage as disparate elements juxtaposed, placed together so they jar and bounce off one another. Breitman's pieces don't talk to one another, they sort of sing in harmony, using a melody we all instantly recognize. What collage adds is the unfamiliar next to the familiar, or two familiars that don't ordinarily go together.

Or so I've always thought.

I think "blurring of the lines" is perhaps an understatement; "collage" is a bit more contemporary than "still life."

But it's late and I'll have to read Elizabeth Barton and see if I still think the same. TTYL:-)

Jory said...

collage for me is a collection of small pieces, fragment of materials usually a part of a whole put together by the creator's idea and inner sight to create a new subject.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Thank you, June and Cyde. You've put your finger on exactly what was bothering me about this. I was being told this was collage but in truth it doesn't look like what I've been led to believe collage truly is. These fabric collages make me say applique because that is what they are, and they really look like photographs of actual things and places in the magazine. All the other collage examples are more as you two describe - push and pull and make you think stuff. There may be harmony or not, but it's that juxtaposition of images and sometimes text that don't necessarily belong together but still tell a story that makes collage collage.

Connie Rose does both paper ( and fabric ( collage, and is one of the bloggers I referred to that has helped me understand collage better. Compare her work to Breitman's and you will see quite a difference.