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  • Maxine Farkas

I figured out what I want to do when I grow up!


It's been a long time since my last post . . . super blogger I am not. But I've gotten a real boost this year and I am ready to head back out to show my work.

In March I had a show at UnchARTed here in Lowell. (If you are from Lowell and don't know UnchARTed, shame on you!) UnchARTed is a mixed media venue, visual art, music, pizza and beverages and is a showcase for work that is new and different.

The space is huge and over the course of the year and a half before the show I created 54 collages, all focused on the urban landscape. And 31 of those pieces sold! People liked the work and I loved doing it . . . I'm going to cheat and paste my artist statement here

Because I was trained as a geographer and have spent most of my adult life looking at landscape through that lens I wanted to create work that pushed the viewer to see landscape as I see it, the complexity of it, the interplay of topography and built environment, the juxtaposition of old and new. I want the work to draw the viewer in, to explore, to find. It has taken me a while to figure out how to do this!

I love the paper in old books, really old books and have been collecting old, falling apart books for a while. Which is/was an excuse to wander flea markets and yard sales on a regular basis. I also have a long history of dismantling flea market finds, over the years I’ve gone after pocket watches, clocks and dead typewriters to take apart and use in my work.

So, I was up in Manchester at a huge antique flea when I spotted an old book. A huge old book, a Latin dictionary published in 1878 . . . 2019 pages with a spine held together with gaffer’s tape. Twenty pounds worth of potential material – for something, had no idea what, but knew that I had to have that behemoth .

At the time of the find I was doing assemblage, combining dismantled bits and pieces into fanciful constructions. At first, I thought I would incorporate pages from the Latin Dictionary into what I was already doing. But no matter what I tried, it seemed that the Latin Dictionary just didn’t play well with the other stuff in my studio. At which point, it became a matter of letting the dictionary pages lead the work rather than being a mere addition to the work.

Three collages in this group were my starting point . . . Genero, Perpetual Motion and Certosa, kind of traditional torn paper collages . . . Certosa was the first piece to incorporate another piece of an old book, a map from a 19th century edition of a Baedekers European guidebook (part of another collection waiting to be used.)

Then I found a falling apart copy of Beautiful Britain (a picture book tour of the stately homes of England) on the $5 rack at Serpentine Books. That is when another ‘what if’ came about. Rather than making pages from the Latin Dictionary dominant, why not let them become the ground upon which the work is built. . . Meander, Three, Around the Corner emerged.

A mangled copy of a history of Edinburgh published around the 1820’s led to a series of small black and white collages. And then a beatup copy of a book on Canaletto introduced me to his landscape paintings bits and pieces of which are to be found in a number of the pieces in this show. Canaletto set me off to find color images to work with. And library book sales provided the source materials.

Preparing for this exhibit I had to stop thinking about images from a certain book or time period and focus on building a library of images from which I could draw. And so, the work became broader, more complex, richer. Just as in real world landscapes the origins of what you see is often unknown, the origins of component imagery used in the collages are lost. The interpretation of what is seen is left to the viewer, the work becomes a lesson in spatial interaction.

All of the imagery used in this work comes from books that were damaged or on their way to recycling.

#collage #landscape

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