2020 Cut Paper Tales

Art for our Pandemic Year


In late winter 2020, as we began to come to grips with the pandemic, artists grabbed their pencils, brushes, and (in my case) blades and scissors. These images are my record of the period March to October 2020. They are small collages on board, heavy paper or Tyvek combining cut or torn paper, parts of drawings (mostly mine), and images from newspapers or magazines. Some represent collaboration with other artists, (as specified). I’ve also indicated what I was reading when I made them.

In March I started drawing with my friend Tish Hyland in coffee shops or outdoors to keep from listening to the news. Here’s a drawing of concrete yard art for sale at a business near the beach, close to where I live in Lowcountry South Carolina.

10” x 12” pencil on drawing paper

Untethered #1

Reading: Night Boat to Tangier a novel by Kevin Barry

Old Irishmen with colorful pasts try to make sense of it all (that involves women). The mermaids and an old man (Claude Monet, the artist) are cutouts from my drawings. The dog is from a drawing by Tish.

10” x 12” cut paper and drawings, pencil, and plastic net on heavy paper

Untethered #2

Reading: Mad Enchantment, a biography by Ross King about Claude Monet as an aging artist during WW I. His daughter-in-law kept him going.

Cutout circles are my reminder of the virus.
10” x 10” cut paper and ink on board

Future Charleston.
Four collages made from cut up historical postcards and additional imagery. Pandemic, sea level rise, over development, gentrification—it’s all there, in bright colors that too often make it easier to avoid harsh realities.
6” x 4” each, cut paper on heavy paper

Reading: Year of Wonders a novel by Geraldine Brooks about England’s late-medieval plague. The umbrellas signify protest and unrest.

16” x 12” cut paper and ink on heavy paper

Background: I asked Linda Elksnin, an artist friend, for a “prompt” to help generate ideas and she sent this detail of 19th c. art from a postcard she picked up in Vienna, back when we could all travel.

Anger, Apathy and Angst.
What we feel. These emotions are interwoven and competing, just like the cutouts surrounding both seated figures.

Reading: a NYT magazine article on climate change, species decline, and the related rise in pandemics.

10” x 12” each, cut paper and cut drawings and photos on heavy paper

16” x 12” cut paper and cut drawings on heavy paper.

I made this collage (above) after my first neighborhood outdoor get-together, when I realized that even small amounts of alcohol loosen inhibitions. People talk more and come closer to one another. They are only being friendly, but viruses don’t respect family ties or friendship.

Mother Love
10” x 12” cut paper on heavy paper

Missing your grown children during a crisis is tough. You want to be helpful and feel necessary to them, but you have to trust their judgment to live wisely.

Too much mother love is creepy.

Examples (above) of works in progress. The randomly assembled beings are based on an early 20c French surrealist art exercise called “exquisite corpse.” The balance of dark and light pieces is based on a Japanese principle of design called “notan.”

Mountain Shelters.
6” x 4” cut paper, newspaper and magazine, on heavy paper

These four card designs represent places of comfort to me. I designed them for an exhibit titled “Shelters” (currently postponed). Mountain ranges and travel were my inspiration. I painted with pieces of paper from New York Times articles: text, lists of names, maps, and photos of protests and hospitals are all in there along with my travel dreams.

Reading: an article in the NYT titled “Will Warm Weather Save Us?” and a NYT magazine special on travel to exotic places along The Silk Road (Winter 2020).

This is Now

I made this collage in collaboration with an artist from Seattle for the online event “Kolaj Live.” We used usps and email. Kolaj Institute usually hosts an annual meeting of collage artists in New Orleans each July. This year it went virtual and international.

There’s no top or bottom to this image, it’s topsy turvy, just like life is now.

7” x 10” cut and torn paper on heavy paper

The Great American Standoff.
A reaction to the protests triggered by George Floyd’s death based on Byzantine diptychs, mosaics, and steam punk.

10” x 12” each, cut paper and drawings on heavy paper

I made this collage to contribute to a public art project proposed by “KolajLive.” My mission was to post a collage in a public place, take photos of it in context (above), and send the photos to a Kolaj Live website for viewing. My posting was at a Republican headquarters.

Queen of Bling.
I recombined eccentric images of Black models from the NYT magazine to create a Queen of Bling. To me she is powerful (The original illustrations showed dripping jewels and electrified models swinging lightbulbs. Collage is all around us.)

16” x 14” cut paper, acrylic paint and ink

Reading: Black Leopard Red Wolf a novel of African history and fantasy by Marlon James. He inspires fascination with mythical queens, witches, and spirits. And cats.
Also The Shadow King, a historical novel of Ethiopia by Maaza Mengiste In which the women Kick Ass.

Viral Debate
9” x 10” cut paper and cut drawings on heavy Paper

Inspired by this year’s presidential debates.

Machines, symbols, ciphers, science and pseudo science all enter into how we process alarming information about a world wide pandemic. Why we debate instead of collaborate beats me.

Where Do You Dream of Going?

What started out as two panels on the theme “traveling in your imagination while staying home” (above left and center, 9” x 18” each) turned into a three-panel scroll (detail of third panel above right).

I printed the imagery on Tyvek, cut it out, and mounted it (with additional ink and pencil) on Tyvek.

Where Do You Dream of Going? Three panels
27” x 32” cut Tyvek and ink on Tyvek

A Melancholy Hour Falleth
16” x 24” cut imagery with additional ink on Tyvek

Reading: The Metaphysical Club. A Story of Ideas in America, a group biography by Louis Menard, and Night Train to Tangier, a novel by Kevin Barry. The characters learn that, for better or for worse, your past shapes you whether you are a lofty thinker or a lowlife crook. My 19th-21st c imagery includes: dueling musicians, a homeless lawyer, anxious doctors, an artist and a soldier, and a great thinker who was not a nice guy.

That’s it. Thanks for looking.

What will I do with these? I’m thinking about putting them in a time capsule box to open in 5 or 10 years.

And I may hang the Tyvek scrolls in my new tent. I like the idea of nomadic artwork.

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