|How Do You Spell Fun|
Acrylic with paper collage elements on canvas
48" x 48" 2012
Elisha Sarti ElishaSarti.com
Where are you from?
I'm from the United States; born in NY.
My residences so far have alternated between city and country and I've enjoyed that. Highlights: I was a young child in the Bronx, spent the '80s growing up in semi-rural New Jersey and went to art college in Baltimore. I then lived a number of years at the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Forest, around Boulder, Colorado. That was where my husband, artist Scott Lickstein and I started our ongoing enterprise, NOWhere Limited: Contemporary Art. Now I'm in NYC and am having a great time immersing myself in all the art and culture here!
How were you first introduced to collage?
'70s and early '80s television. Catching glimpses as a young kid of things like Terry Gilliam's animations for Monty Python or The Cars You Might Think music video let me know at an early age that image combining was possible and fun. Later, as a teenager, I made collages quite often, but didn't really think of them as art - it was more about decoration. For instance in junior high, I adorned my schoolbook covers with ransom-letter style text cut from plentiful supplies of '80s teen magazines. (These magazines in themselves were collage-like with their jaunty layouts, crazy fonts and cut-out figures of pop stars against neon colored backgrounds.) I also decorated my locker with pictures I collected from these magazines, mixed in with photos of friends, magnets and a makeup mirror. This was when I first began using packing tape in conjunction with magazines. My formal introduction to collage must have been during a brief segment of high school art class covering Pop art. Seeing Richard Hamilton's Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing? was the one of the first times I realized collage could be art.
How long have you been working in the medium of collage?
My serious experiments with it began in my second year of art college. Leading up to that I had a Summer job attempting to salvage flood-damaged medical records by painstakingly pulling them apart. There I became fascinated with the layering of images, blurred ink and disintegrated texts that occurred with the water damage of the documents. This also reminded me of peeling posters mixed with graffiti I would see in the city. Today, I often simulate these kinds textures of decay or use a form of décollage in my mixed media pieces. Anyway, when I returned to my studio after that Summer job, I began to incorporate found objects and collage elements into my paintings. For the first experiment I consider successful, I used a broken mirror shard as the head of a figure in a thickly textured painting. This painting also had bits of sandpaper stuck into it, and the figures were cartoon-like birds that I had drawn after "deciphering" them in the paints I'd been pooling on the canvas (as in a Rorschach ink blot.) I was not making too many paper-only collages or digital images then. Those happened later when I was in the process of moving across the country and was looking for a really immediate way to make artwork (without unpacking my studio materials.)
Describe your work
My work usually hangs on a wall, although I've made a few sculptures or freestanding pieces and plan on doing more of that soon. I use paint, most frequently acrylic, often combined with mixed media like paper, plastic or fabric collage elements. The image may be on wood, on canvas, on paper or on surfaces I build from things like flattened paperboard food boxes or reconstituted junkmail. My imagery usually references advertisements, product packaging and pictures collected from the Internet or magazines. I think of my work as visual odes to the disposable mass media it features or from which it is crafted. I enjoy blurring the boundaries of drawing, collage, painting, mark-making and writing.
What materials do you like to work with?
I like working with magazine pages of any kind, cardboard, fake flowers, colored pencil, printed bed sheets or pillowcases, archival inkjet prints, grocery store circulars, found bits of plastic like pieces of toys, almost any kind of paper or fabric, especially if it's thin or shiny or very thick or has an intriguing pattern or is a worn out advertisement. For my surfaces, I enjoy working with wood (often salvaged), stretched canvas or stretched found fabric primed with acrylic medium if I want the pattern to show through, or as previously mentioned, building my own substrates out of things like product packaging or junkmail. If I like it enough, I'll find a way to work with any sort of found objects or ephemera I come across. I don't limit my materials - instead I'll invent a series they are used to build. If I don't physically collage the item into my work, I'll draw or copy it. If that doesn't feel right, I'll photograph or scan it for my ongoing and as of yet untitled photographic series of objects and papers - a sort of (so far) private and ever-expanding catalog. I also save and use scraps from previous projects I've made. These could be bits of paper, tape, paint peeled from canvases or from the plastic lids I often use as temporary palettes. I like working with Golden acrylic mediums and paints, sometimes Liquitex. I like Heavy Duty Scotch 3M shipping tape.
Please describe your process.
Even though I use a lot more than paint alone, I think of what I do as painting. One of the modes I have as a painter is to "think in collage." This mode is intuitive and is crucial during composition no matter which of my series is the focus. The materials I use affect the imagery I choose and also vice versa.
I've mentioned earlier how I visually reference as well as build surfaces from advertisements, product packaging and pictures collected from the Internet or magazines. In addition to gleaning ideas from these collected things, I also stage experiments to spark content. For example, in one series I "ask" Google to make value judgments by searching for pictures representing subjective words like "pretty," "worst" and "perfect." I then collage the results. Lately, I also use clear packaging tape as an idea-generating vehicle. I flip through tabloid magazines, junkmail fliers etc. and quickly, without giving too much thought to each action or image, stick bits of the pages to strips of tape. This creates what I think of as "collage-on-the-fly." These speed compositions are digitized and archived for future use. Their latest incarnation takes shape as my series Love Absorption. In this body of work I paint canvases or wood panels with imagery adapted from collages and sketches I’ve made with the impromptu tape method. I’ve also been adding pieces inspired by these tape sketches to my Junkmail² series.
Do you collect anything?
Images! I'm so grateful to live in the digital age because I can save whatever pictures I want without having to get a bigger studio. So, I have many treasured collections of pixels. In the physical world, I also keep small and not very rigorously maintained collections of shells, rocks and things like pine cones, as well as small toys or figurines. I display these on window sills and with plants. I collect art as much as possible, magnets for the fridge and lately, costume jewelry (pins, bracelets, necklaces, no earrings.) Art and jewelry are the only collections I display and don't categorize as potential art supplies. The rest are fair game...
Do you listen to music when you work? If yes, who?
Yes, usually. Anything and everything (but no showtunes)! For me it's important to have an extra layer of stimuli while I'm working, even if it's the white noise of talk radio. It keeps the flow going.
Do you have any formal art training?
Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)
What other artists do you admire and why?
It's just the tip of the great iceberg of artists I admire, but here are a few whose exhibits affected me indelibly when I saw them in person:
Jean Dubuffet - Seeing his exhibit at the Hirshhorn in Washington DC in the mid '90s helped me when I first began experimenting with mixed media materials. Claes Oldenburg - I'd always admired his sculptures and I love the idea of his Store, but I was particularly inspired when I saw his Mouse Museum at the MoMA in 1999 or 2000. The Mouse Museum is a wooden structure built in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head, housing a collection of hundreds of kitsch items, ephemera and "by-products" of the artist's work. Also, I love his sketches and sketchbooks. I love the joie de vivre, saturated colors and sense of humor of Pipilotti Rist - I got to see a lot of her work around 1999 or 2000. And, I would say also love the same things (joie de vivre, saturated colors and sense of humor) about John Chamberlain! I was so taken with his show at the Guggenheim in Winter 2012.
Do you have a favorite artist quote?
"Man is only truly alive when he realizes he is a creative, artistic being... Even the act of peeling a potato can be a work of art if it is a conscious act." Joseph Beuys
"A pair of socks is no less suitable to make a painting with than wood, nails, turpentine, oil, and fabric." Robert Rauschenberg
"I don't believe in art. I believe in artists." Marcel Duchamp
acrylic, colored pencil and ink on reconstituted junk mail
6.5" x 7"x 0.5" 2012
acrylic, colored pencil and ink on reconstituted junk mail
5" x 5" x 0.5" 2012