Friday, May 16, 2008

Piecing it all together

Charles at the helm today. Hang on.

Last night Rose and I attended Art Loves Jazz, a fundraiser to benefit Jazz 90.1. It was held at ARTISANworks, this amazingly eclectic art gallery here in Rochester. There were all the things you’d expect at a charity event – hors d’oeuvres, live music, a silent auction and, since it was ARTISANworks, a live art auction. We had spotted a collage we both liked and, after a short bidding war with another determined collage fan, we added a new piece to our collection. We have maybe 40 works of art hanging up in our home, half of which are collages, and many of those by the Buffalo, NY artist, Pat Presutti. Now I love all the art that’s hanging in our home – from traditional Indian miniatures I picked up in Jaipur, the crisp pen and ink drawings of idealized Arabic motifs, to the wonderful airbrush work given to me by my artist/architect friend, David Gardner, but I have to say that there is something about a collage that pulls me in and won’t let go.

I’m sure that when some people see collages the first thing they think is, “I could do that.” Admittedly, all you do is cut out pictures (and other stuff), and glue it all together, and everyone made at least one collage in high school art, so how hard can it be?

Anybody can do it. Doing it well is another thing.

I think one reason I’m drawn to collages is that, on many levels, it parallels what I do as a writer. I don’t create anything completely on my own. Thailand is a real place, Raffles is a real hotel, there are trains in India. What I do is go around finding interesting snippets of stuff, isolate them and then mash them all together. Like a collage, it’s the unexpected juxtapositions of found images that make the piece work, the subtle placement of select elements that make it resonate with the reader. Now, choosing the right images, the right scraps, the right what-the-hell-is-this stuff and then assembling it all in a way that is compelling and exciting and different and surprising – well, that’s the challenge. Millions of people have seen the same things I’ve seen – how do I bring them together so that it seems fresh even to those who see it every day?

When I get it right, I know it’s good. The Egypt Air flight in Relative Danger, the bus ride in Out of Order, the club scenes in Noble Lies. Great art? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s the stuff that lets me know that with the right words and phrases, nouns and verbs, commas, dashes and incomplete sentences, I can create a collage as expressive as the ones I hang on my wall.

NEW NOTE: Guest blogger Lorraine Bartlett's blog will appear NEXT SUNDAY - so drop what you're doing and plan to read it. I know, I said this Sunday, but it's worth the wait. So, once again it's SUNDAY, MAY 25th. Got it? If not, let me know and I'll send you a reminder.

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