Behind the Scenes
……Kevin Sampsell’s Paper Trumpets…..
In late April I read with Kevin Sampsell and Jay Ponteri in Nathan Curtis Warner’s LYE:WORDS at Pond Gallery.
Kevin had a projector set up and interrupted reading from his book to show his Collages. Sometimes they contained text, and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes Kevin read the Collage text. . .Regardless, I was quite taken by them. . .And so I asked Kevin if I could feature some of them here on htmlgiant.
What follows, then is a Q & A we did with Kevin’s Collages interspersed.
Rauan: How did you get started doing Collages ??
Kevin: I was inspired by the cut-up experiments of William S. Burroughs and actually started doing word collages, mostly from newspaper headlines, about twenty years ago. I put out a weird little chapbook called Children’s Book in 1996 and I’ve always wanted to make a follow-up book. I’ve kept this big manila envelope of words ever since then, occasionally pulling it out and making funny cards and pictures with them and giving them to friends. But those were more about wordplay and odd language. At the beginning of this year, I decided I’d pull out that envelope and start making more collages, kind of as a break from writing. I started to look around at other collage stuff on-line and discovered this whole big vibrant world of collage artists and, more importantly, I started to seriously consider the use of altered images to play off the words. I discovered this book called The Age of Collage and it included profiles and work by a bunch of great artists doing amazing work with collage. This page on the publisher’s web site included videos of John Stezaker and Linder Sterling and I became hooked. Stezaker’s video was especially influential. I started to look at collage every moment that I could and I joined a bunch of collage groups on Facebook too. I started to put more importance on how the images in the collage were presented. Words are still important, but the images are equally so now. Something clicked in my brain and I’m starting to figure out things with images. How to play with them and make them do strange things. Making collages is like creating optical illusions sometimes. Like with writing fiction or poems, pretty much anything can happen.
For me, collage is all about seeing, as opposed to writing, where you’re sort of trapped in your head. With collaging, it’s still a building or crafting, but it’s a series of steps that is way more thrilling than writing for me. First, there’s the hunt for material and the cutting of it–I buy old magazines and $1 books from thrift stores. I have a small tupperware container thing for the stuff I cut or tear out. One of the drawers is just for cut-out words.> Another drawer is for smaller images cut from magazines and books. And another drawer with larger images, often more like full backdrops like landscapes or nature scenes or shots of space.
RK: Some writers who are also artists have told me that they have to keep the two disciplines separate– is this the case with you ?? Or do you find the wires crossing in good, surprising ways ?? (Some of your work contains text of course. And, your collages employ juxtapositional and associate thinking strategies that are common in writing, especially Poetry, I think.)
I find them to be pretty separate kinds of exercises or expressions, but I hope my collages exhibit the same sort of attitude that some of my writing does. Actually, it’s kind of weird because I think my collages have more of a political feel than any of my fiction or nonfiction ever has. But that might also come from the tone of the words I’m using–maybe even the font. Newspapers headlines carry this very authoritative tone to them, even when they’re scrambled up in a fucked up way. Some other writers who do collaging that I’ve shared work with are Leah Umansky, AM O’Malley, Melody Owen, and Brandon Downing. The writer Russ Sara Woods just moved to Portland and is also a wonderful collage artist and we’re gearing up for some collage nights together. It would be fun to ask them this question.
RK: What Collage artists do you admire and have, perhaps, used as guides or models for your own work ? And, if possible, can you supply links to their work? (i think you mentioned when we spoke in person that your Collages use more text than most other Collage work that you’re familar with).
I discovered a lot of people through The Age of Collage book and then just through random on-line searches. Some of them are also part of this really cool collaborative mail project called Ice Cream Kingdom (who I’ll be working with on a project later this year). Jesse Treece is the guy behind that. Through some of the collage groups on Facebook I’ve discovered some other amazing people. Michael Tunk is a younger and super prolific artist that blows me away and he recently asked me to collaborate with him so I sent him a few half-finished collages in the mail. I recently bought a print by Beth Hoeckel. The first collage show I went to at a gallery this year was by an Oregon collage artist I adore named Cory Peeke. There’s also Jay Riggio and Sarah Eisenlohr. I like some older classics too, like Hannah Hoch and Kurt Schwitters, but I think the new collagists are going even further.
RK: Are you building towards a book of collages and/are you planning to have gallery exhibits of your work ??
I would love to publish a book that includes a bunch of my collages as well as text I’ve written about collaging. I have a Word document I open every few days and write down different thoughts, quotes, ideas, etc about collaging. It’s like a weird lyric essay. I think it will eventually be a really interesting book. I have so many ideas and plans for my collaging. I want to start a Tumblr page and figure out how to sell prints. My friend Noland at Snoot is making some T-shirts soon that have some of my collages on them. I have my first collage show in Portland in August at a cool place called The Waypost, which I’ll be sharing with Sarah Mirk. But first off, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be doing a collage column called Paper Trumpets for The Rumpus that debuts on June 10th. It will be every other Tuesday and will feature a new collage by me as well as notes about the collage, plus links to other collage artists I think people should see. I feel like discovering collage in this new way this year has been a life-changing experience for me. It’s changed me and I want to share it.