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Photography and Collage

Spring 2023

March 20th - June 21st

Last month, after having given a presentation on creativity and my journey in photography, I was asked what I thought about recent developments in artificial intelligence image generators - a topic that’s been floating around quite a bit lately. In reflecting back on my answer, I wished I’d spoken more about disruption and response.

Photography itself started as an enormous shock to the system when it arrived on the scene in the first half of the 19th century. “As of today, painting is dead!” French painter Paul Delaroche exclaimed after seeing his first photograph. And yet …within a fairly short amount of time, the response from the art world was a creative leap into Impressionism. Using photography, painters now could literally see the world from fresh viewpoints and they found inspiration in new ideas about fragmentation and the use of light as subject. There was a wonderful exhibition at the Thyssen Museum in Madrid a few years ago exploring the relationship between the Impressionists and photography. Curated by Paloma Alarcó, the exhibition explores the symbiotic relationship between the two art forms.


Sasha Stone, untitled collage,1920 - 1940, Digital image courtesy of Getty’s Open Content Program.

So, here we are in the early part of the 21st century, recently recovered from the Digital disruption and now we’re faced with Artificial Intelligence. What is our response? A significant approach has been the rise in analog and the handmade - photography as a unique object. This is so wonderfully evident in the use of collage, an  exploration and expansion of ways to find meaning through the assembling, cutting, pasting, even sewing, of imagery and other materials. This celebration of our humanity through the process of self-expression - that will endure, and in fact, I believe it will continue to flourish in the face of whatever disruptions come our way.

This showcase has a few changes, one is my publishing will now be quarterly, I love the idea of following the seasons. Additionally, this showcase was a collaboration with Amandine Nabarra, whose work was featured in my last showcase on Artist’s Books. It was very interesting to work hands-on with another artist. You are often unaware of your own process until you need to walk someone else through it and I found it very invigorating. The following is her introduction to this showcase:

What do we mean by collage? It is the technique of pasting any media on various surfaces including three-dimensional elements. It can be a strategy to layer different meanings into one final project. From Hannah Höch's political and social commentary in early 20th century to Annette Messager’s installations in the 70s, collage is firmly grounded in the history of photography.

Nowadays it’s easier to create collage with digital tools but we found that most artists blend different techniques to set their work apart from their peers. In today’s digital age how images are combined to tell a story is more important than the techniques used. Collage is a strategy to break from the overly realistic depictions of digital photography. It adds a level of abstraction that challenges the viewer. All photographic processes can be used with one another opening the gate to endless possibilities that can better express the artist’s voice.

It’s important to note that assemblage artists are not always photographers, many are painters and sculptors. Some incorporate images into found objects or containers, others create new objects into which the photography is embedded. These compositions naturally evolve into three dimensional work and push the audience to look closer and think about the artist’s intent.

Juxtaposition, layering, fragmentation and the use of paint, or other media, are all collage and assemblage techniques and are a way to think outside the box and create new metaphors. These can convey emotion and other dimensions, adding depth and meaning that reach the viewer's mind at a subconscious level,  allowing  them to create their own narrative. Here are six bold artists who have successfully used these techniques.
- Amandine Nabarra

Jessica Burko

© © Jessica Burko, all rights reserved

Fractured and Found

My work in the ongoing series, Fractured and Found, combines photography and encaustic medium inside reclaimed wooden drawers that are pieced into towering and teetering structures. The image transfers are largely fragmented self-portraits and their connection to areas of empty space suggest a disjointed existence. Through the juxtaposition and isolated compartments of broken moments and emptiness there appears to be room for breath, for rest, or intervals yet to be filled.

The path I travel in making the work explores connections between interior being and being on display, creating emotional divisiveness while in demand by conflicting forces. Searching for balance between selfhood, motherhood, working, and rest, every role becomes compartmentalized, fitting into one another as a modular ever-changing form.

Incorporating found materials helps me feel grounded in what’s real and what exists outside of my head. The drawers symbolize not just boxes I’m trying to fit into, but also spaces once private, now revealed and put on display. Much of my work grows out of the battle between yearning for one thing but doing something else. The images and constructions combine with disjointed awkwardness, and through making the images and structures I traverse complex feelings while struggling to find place, meaning, purpose, and time.

Ricardo Miguel Hernández


©  Ricardo Miguel Hernández, all rights reserved

When the Memory Turns to Dust

I work from that flexibility between history and memory; in that sway that moves between a real, verifiable event, a family memory or a social scene, and the new historical construction that I give to that rescued memory.

I try to create an atmosphere where reality and fiction complement each other, rather than tense.


It is like a poetics of loss.

Diana Nicholette Jeon

@ Diana Nicholette Jeon, all rights reserved

Toxic Tales

Toxic Tales is an ambiguous commentary on the behavior of people using Social Media. Using self-portraiture, compositing, and digital painting and drawing, I poke at the way we show ourselves online. Toxic Tales is an in-process series; none of the images have been finalized, and what is here today may be different than it looks upon completion.

Rebecca Sexton Larson

© Rebecca Sexton Larson, all rights reserved

The Porch

The Porch series visually documents stories shared on my grandmother's front porch during my childhood. It was customary after meals for friends and family to gather and exchange endearing stories, questionable gossip, and of course, the day's news - laughing and enjoying each other's company on a tiny concrete entryway with two fragile, webbed lawn chairs, and a matching metal garden glider. Sadly, front porch gatherings are slowly giving way to a more isolated culture of internet surfing and social media. As the world becomes increasingly digitally connected, we have never been more socially disconnected. I long to visually revisit the memories shared on that small porch in Kentucky, as dusk set in, light bounced off the rolling hills, and the night gave way to the buzz of lightning bugs and crickets.

The Porch uses a combination of digital and analog imagery and painting to explore inherited memories marked by traditions, rituals, and storytelling. Each one-of-a-kind piece comprises a synthesis of images and materials - photographic prints, gouache/watercolor paint, drawing, and stitching. This series is about experiencing a narrative early on and how family history and storytelling build upon our identity, contributing to our current relationships with others. Our family stories provide the foundation for understanding painful experiences and celebrating joyous ones - they are the key to discovering what life is all about.

Annalise Neil

© Annalise Neil, all rights reserved

With nature imagery as a visual framework, my work considers ideas such as perception, the unknown, and ecology. Metaphors that come from researching these scientific and philosophical tenets are woven into my pieces. The concepts and the images they lead to can be used to help interpret living as one species amongst wildly complex, interconnected social and natural environments. I am keenly interested in discussing states of change and possibility: past-is-prologue enmeshed with ongoing scientific illuminations. I endeavor to create work that will lead to contemplation and reflection for the viewer, and that allows for a re-thinking of the human’s relationship to reality and our surroundings.

All the images in my cyanotypes are direct prints of hand-cut negatives from my photographs. As I move through the world, I take pictures of compelling things I discover and then turn them into negatives that I print on transparency film. I weave this harvested imagery into my works on paper, which I later embroider with formal and surreal watercolor paint. I have hundreds of negatives that I build my compositions with, and organize them in categories like birds, mushrooms, moons, and places.

When I am in the planning stage of my work, I lay the negatives out on white paper which covers many tables and the floor. It is something like casting characters in a play, as I try one and then another in my arrangements. This is a lyrical stage of my work, and is very much a collage-style technique that I employ to find visual and conceptual harmony.

Lou Peralta

© Lou Peralta, all rights reserved


The word “comalli” comes from the Aztec Nahuatl for griddle or comal. As the fourth generation of a family of Mexico City-based portrait photographers, my work seeks to find new meanings in portraiture.  I became interested in looking back to the time of the Spanish conquest in America (16th century), to see how Mexicas or Aztecs portrayed themselves during this critical period in our history.

This mixed media Series is inspired by the Mendocino Codex (housed at the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford), which references of the use of a comalli (griddle in náhuatl), a household tool that has been used for the same purposes in Mexican homes since that time.

Working with several used comals and portraits of contemporary Mexicans, I intent to represent contemporary women and men from my country and make the analogy that as the wrinkles on a person’s face bear witness to the passage of time, the stains on the comal are a sign of its years of use.

The art works in this series begins by printing the portraits utilizing Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth paper and Epson archival pigment inks with protective spray. I then embed into the prints physical elements that have been used in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times, together with objects from Mexican daily life which are hand-constructed, such as tissue paper, sackcloth, cardboard, plastic fabric, hammered brass, luffa vegetable sponge, metal fiber, jerga cloth, amate paper, agave thread, corn husks and feathers. Materials are attached with archival glue and tape.

“The Nahuas ate lightly.  The Mendocino Codex tells us how their children were fed: at three years, half a tortilla a day; at four and five, a full tortilla; between six and twelve, one and a half tortillas.  From the age of thirteen, two tortillas.”
                                                                           --Salvador Novo
                                                                           Cocina Mexicana: Historia gastronómica de la Ciudad de México

Corn is a fundamental part of our identity as Mexicans, and so, therefore, are the comal and tortillas.
Five hundred years ago, when the conquistador Hernán Cortés reached Tenochtitlán (today part of Mexico City), he was dazzled by the great market at Tlatelolco.  He described it to the Spanish King Carlos V: “They sell maize, or Indian corn, in the grain and in the form of bread, preferred in the grain for its flavor to that of the other islands and terra-firma.”

In Pre-Hispanic times, the clay griddle or comal (comalli in Náhuatl) was formed by baking a flat disk of clay, then placing it on three or four stones as a support and to light a fire below. You still see this type of comal today.

In Mexico, the comal is used so frequently that some stoves are made with the comal incorporated into it. Many, however, prefer to have theirs separate, whether made out metal, clay, enamelware or stone. I remember that at my grandmother’s house in Mexico City, they would bring the corn to the mill to make the masa, which was then used to pat out the tortillas by hand and then toast them in the comal over the stove.  When my grandmother was a child, she often used a wood stove for this process.

Most Mexicans prepare tortillas at home every day, and the comal where they are cooked becomes a witness to the family’s history.  Usually this basic implement is used for years before throwing it out, so it’s not unusual to find one that has accompanied various generations.  The more the comal is used, the better the tortillas taste.
Some people even say that the comal has its own soul*.   As the wrinkles on a person’s face bear witness to the passage of time, the stains on the comal are a sign of its years of use.  And the fire that cooks the tortillas, together with the stains burned on to the comal, might well be likened to the marks that tragedy can leave on our faces.

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