The Betsy Rodgers Allen Gallery in Schlow Centre Region Library proudly sponsors this monthly, virtual exhibition of work by local and regional artists.
Young People's Collage: Connections With Artists Past and Present
This month's exhibition features artwork and reflections by the students of teacher, Anne Elise Burgevin. These amazingly creative works are a product of the students' courage and thoughtfulness following an in-depth course on collage, art history, and creative writing. The works and reflections will be on display throughout September.
Bennu Dukel, age 13
Making collages is like spilling my thoughts into colors and shapes. The process of bringing together different forms of materials to create a unique work from a sheet of cardboard is remarkable for me. It is fun and gives me a chance to project my feelings through creative arts.
When I first started the collage classes, I thought that making a collage was simply choosing papers and gluing them down on a white sheet of paper. After my first two classes with Mrs. Burgevin, though, I realized that it is a much lengthier process. It takes time and requires patience.
Whenever I begin a new collage, I start by staring blankly at my piece of cardboard and think for a while to visualize my project. First, I try to come up with themes for my collage related to things that interest me: animals, music, nature. Once I have a theme, I sort through my box of colorful papers and other materials. I imagine a specific thing and focus on its hues and aspects. Then I pull out a piece of paper, I look at it and consider its color and shape. I think about whether it fits my theme and what shapes I can cut it into. Some of the papers I choose will be just one plain color while others will be patterned with organic shapes and animals. After choosing my materials, I place them on my cardboard, arrange them and rearrange them until they please me. This step usually takes some time for me. I like to pause once in a while and see how my collage is developing. I always make sure that the colors complement each other and do not clash too much.
When everything is in place on my cardboard, I am ready to glue down the cut outs. I take the entire collage off my cardboard and lay it gently to one side. I try to make the collage look the same even when off the cardboard, so this process also takes some time. After everything is off the cardboard, I take my cut papers and glue them back on piece by piece. I like to keep everything as flat and as smooth as possible. I like my collages to have an even surface when I run my hand over them.
Now that everything is glued down, my collage is, at this point, almost finished. All that is left is to paint over parts of the collage or to draw on it. This, of course, is optional but I enjoy doing it. I feel that adding additional paintings to my collages makes them richer and more vibrant. Sometimes I paint just for the sake of it. At this stage, I mostly use watercolors or acrylic paints. For example, three of my collages have faces of women on them made with watercolors. Another one has a red dragon, along with two white doves circling a crystal ball with a person’s hands underneath. Those were made with acrylic paints. Sometimes, I will paint the background of a figure so that the figure itself pops out more. Other times I just color the edges of some of the papers for greater emphasis.
Paper is one of the many things I enjoy working with, and these classes gave me a chance to expand my knowledge of art made with paper. Constructing a piece of art by layering and combining different papers has been a wonderful experience for me, one that I hope to continue experimenting with and learning more about in the future.
The Black Death
The Thoughtful Gaze
Wrapped in Music
Charlotte Krol, age 10
One collage artist I found inspiring was Henri Matisse. He was born on December 31, 1869 and was raised in Northern France. Matisse worked as a clerk and briefly studied for a law degree. At age 21, while recovering from an illness, he began to paint. Matisse moved to Paris in 1891 for more art lessons, and his love for art blossomed. When he was 70, he became ill again and was no longer able to paint or sculpt, so he began to create collage art. Matisse would cut painted pieces of paper and arrange them to form colorful and lively compositions. His first works were paper-sized, but he eventually produced wall-sized murals.
It was inspiring to learn how Henri Matisse found a way to combine his love of sculpture and painting and kept producing the art he loved, even when he was physically limited.
Colors and Shapes
The Splattered Musician
Elsa Grossman, age 11
When I use my scissors, I feel a whole new horizon of possibilities for how my collage will turn out. Sometimes it’s easy to see my vision of what my collage will look like. Sometimes it’s a fuzzy idea. And sometimes I have no clue what to make. But I will always pick up the scissors and just cut different kinds of paper—different textures, different shapes, and different colors. I try to fit them onto my base and, if I’m lucky, I fit it in and am happy with it. Other times I might try to fit a piece onto my collage and rip it by accident. But even the ripped part can still fit. It adds a look of 3D texture to your piece. And so even if you rip a piece of paper or make any kind of mistake you might find that it wasn’t so bad after all.
Collage is whatever you want it to be—any style, any material, any idea. These can all be the start of your collage. When I make a collage, the first thing I do is pick up a piece of paper that looks interesting and think “how can I turn this into a collage?” The only rule of collage is that you have fun making it.
Never Ending Changes
We All Live in a Pokeman World
Gus Tritsch, age 18
I enjoyed making a collage, and being engaged in a small piece of art. By having one small thing to finish, it was easier for me to see it all more clearly. I didn't have time to forget what it had felt like to begin the collage and I could see the whole thing, not just the parts. The dense colors in Romare Bearden's collages motivated me.
from one moon
to the next
(Note: This is a haibun, a Japanese literary form in which prose is combined with haiku.)
Hannah Grossman, age 15
One of the things that I think makes collage so wonderful is how open ended it is. There are so many different techniques and materials. There are no rules for what you can and can't use.
It's so fun to experiment, arranging paper (and whatever else you're using) in different ways to see how it looks. It's always cool to see how your original plan can change just by trying something in a different place. Sometimes even a "mistake" can add something you never would have thought of.
A lot of the time my collages are inspired by things I like or am interested in—books and movies are a big inspiration.
A Notion of a Nation
It Will Not Do
The Wrath of the Abyss
Huck Tritsch, age 15
I always thought that art wasn’t for me because I didn’t like drawing or painting. When Anne Burgevin announced she was teaching a collage-making class over Zoom, I must admit, I was not very interested. But my mom signed me up, and somehow, I found myself sitting in front of my computer, making a collage. In the beginning, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know the significance of color or texture, of shape or scale. But gradually, as I discovered more techniques and learned about new collage artists, I began to see things differently. As I practiced making transfers and doing assemblage, I gradually learned to see pictures as shapes and colors, detaching their literal meanings and discovering something entirely new.
I really appreciated the way Anne integrated art history into the class. In each class, we would learn about an influential collage artist, and how he or she changed collage. We did studies to learn some of the techniques the artist used, and then, before the next class, made collages inspired by the artist. We learned how collage began as a format for poems in 10th century Japan and how it later helped to create modern art in the hands of artists such as Pablo Picasso. We also learned about many contemporary artists and witnessed the ways in which collage can be used as a voice to speak out about what is right.
During a global pandemic, collage class was also a fantastic way to connect with other people. A portion of every class was spent sharing collages and giving feedback. The feedback I received on my collages was always very helpful and encouraging; seeing everyone else’s work inspired me to keep going. Through this class, I acquired a considerable number of collage-making techniques, from tearing paper to transferring images using water and tape. I spent valuable time discussing collage with other people—a form of interaction that has been exceedingly hard to find lately. I learned of the history of collage, from collage as a background for ancient Japanese poems to the way young artists express themselves in a rapidly changing world. And most importantly, I learned to appreciate and enjoy the art of collage.
Pieces From My Grandmother's Attic
Lorelei Keil, age 13
When I began learning to make collages in Teacher Anne's class, I couldn't wait to create and speak through art. I enjoyed seeing videos and samples of the many ways to create collage. My favorite piece I made is Stained Canvas—because I incorporated something I learned from every class into one piece of art. I kept adding things to it anytime I saw an object that spoke to me.
My Stained Canvas collage gets its name because I used a tea-stained canvas as the ground for my art. I also included one of my haiku in the collage that includes these words:
as I sip my tea
An important thing to me in collage is layers and textures. In class we learned about tearing paper away from you and then tearing it towards you and how those two similar actions produce different effects. We also learned about adding texture through sewing and stitching the collage with needle and thread.
With collage there are endless possibilities for what you can create and how you can execute your ideas. It is a wonderful way to express yourself and how you are feeling! I admire all my classmates’ collages and feel inspired by them to create more!
Olivia Schaak, age 12
My name is Olivia Schaak and I’m going into seventh grade. I’m homeschooled and I love animals. I grew up doing all types of art, but I mainly leaned toward drawing. I have progressed to liking almost all types of art.
Collage was a new thing for me. I find it quite nice being able to use paper to express emotions and creativity. I find myself leaning toward two different styles. One is realistic and can be seen in my collage of the field and the mountains, and the other is fantasy, as can be seen in my collage with the multiple moons and large mushrooms.
Out My Back Door
Moons and Mushrooms
Wyatt Keil, age 15
My collage, Galactic Thought, is inspired by Francois Morellet, who used shapes to compose his art. While I was making the collage, I thought about space and all the mystery it holds.
The multi-colored shapes not only represent the stars, but also the many thoughts of the boy. His many thoughts represent the fact that our world is obsessed with conflict and will probably never experience complete peace.
A word (or two) about Young People's Collage
Welcome to Young People’s Collage: Connections with Artists Past and Present. This show is an exciting culmination of an eight-month online collage class, Experimenting with Collage, during which nine homeschool students, ages 10–18, from Centre County, Pennsylvania and Gökova, Turkey, were introduced to collage artists, techniques, and art history. Among the many things they discovered, they learned how events, such as war, have defined art movements.
The students created small studies in class—such as making a transfer of a photograph using packaging tape—before making the collages in this show. In the same way English students use mentor texts to understand great works of literature, these students used the works of collage artists to inspire and inform their own collage-making. They also practiced giving each other supportive feedback and asking helpful questions about their collages.
They were intrigued to learn about the works contemporary collage artists were creating, and the “how and why” behind their work. Short videos, quotes, and the collages of Eunice Parsons, Lance Letscher, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Deborah Roberts, Maria Berrio, and Betye Saar captivated and motivated the students. Artists from the past, such as Henri Matisse, Romare Bearden, and Kurt Schwitters, became guides for the students as they followed the trajectory of collage from a fledgling art form to a well appreciated one.
Collage artist, Annette Makino, visited the class from her California studio. She shared her creative process of painting and tearing Japanese paper and encouraged the students to explore haiga, an artform combining haiku and visual art. There are several haiga in this show.
Henri Matisse wisely noted that creating art takes courage. These students are to be commended not only on their courage, but their curiosity and creative spirit as well. Please enjoy their works of art and their written reflections.
—Anne Elise Burgevin
Teacher and Curator
Special thanks to:
Delali Agawu for her photography and photo editing work
David Burgevin for his advice on curating the show
Christine Robinson for her assistance with formatting and design
Maria Burchill, head of Schlow Library’s Adult Services, for her professionalism.
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