the bookish art of collage

I’ve written about collage before on this blog. Gimme a copy of Art News or National Geographic and a brush with clear-drying glue, and I’m a happy camper.

The relationship between collage and fiction is centuries old (at least!). It’s still a favorite technique for children’s-book illustration, as in Alan Suddon’s 1969 version of Cinderella from the Children’s Literature Archive at Ryerson University (click the pic to check out the full-size image at the CLA site for the full textural effect!):

cinderella collage

Lately, though, it seems like literature-related collage is enjoying a surge in popularity. It’s a natural fit for social media like Tumblr that allow artists to showcase their visual work and stores like Etsy that allow them to sell it (paper collage is cheap to ship compared to, say, custom cabinetry).

Dracula collage on Etsy
Dracula collage on Etsy

The Etsy shop Artful Living sells handmade collage pieces based on classic titles like Fahrenheit 451 and Tom Sawyer. Or, if your taste runs towards comics, there are Jaime Perdew‘s colorful Marvel collages:

Xmen collage

One of my favorite collage artists is Canadian novelist Diane Schoemperlen, who uses vintage school primers for her raw material and creates quirky (and often moving, and sometimes creepy) juxtapositions in her pieces. I recently bought a few copies of her “Create More Worry Less” perpetual calendar–one for me and the rest for holiday gifts for writer friends.

Diane Schoemperlen collage in The New Quarterly no. 114 Spring 2010
Diane Schoemperlen collage in The New Quarterly no. 114 Spring 2010

In her guest-edited issue of The New Quarterly (Spring 2010) on the theme of Lists and List-Making, Schoemperlein explains how her collage art relates to her writing:

It follows in the tradition of the object trouvĂ©, especially found poetry, taking shape as a prose form that I’ve decided to call a found narrative… [It] is a visual art form that seems to arise directly from the same impulse as list-making in that it involves selecting, ordering, arranging, and cataloguing, and, in the end, it results in something greater and more satisfying than the sum of its parts.

Writers are collectors by nature. You have to hoard a lot of words–memories, scenes, character studies, turns of phrase–to put together a novel. Most of us make mental collages all the time when we write. We mash ideas up against each other and see how they look; we move things around; we snip them to pieces. What an inspired idea to do this physically, with scissors and glue, instead of just in our heads!

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