Making the cut Col­lage artists Hope Kroll, Sherry Parker, and Frank Whip­ple

Col­lage artists Hope Kroll, Sherry Parker, and Frank Whip­ple

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Jen­nifer Levin The New Mex­i­can

af­ter World War I, cre­ative types dis­il­lu­sioned by main­stream so­ci­ety and alien­ated by wornout artis­tic prac­tices grav­i­tated to­ward Sur­re­al­ism, a lit­er­ary and vis­ual arts move­ment meant to ex­pand the un­con­scious mind be­yond the con­straints of the ra­tio­nal world. An­dré Bre­ton, the French poet and an­ar­chist who founded the move­ment hop­ing it would lead to to­tal so­cial revo­lu­tion, had stud­ied medicine and psy­chol­ogy. Dur­ing the war, he de­vel­oped a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in dreams and the thought pro­cesses of the mentally ill. He was greatly in­flu­enced by the writ­ings of Sig­mund Freud, who sought to ex­plain the un­known work­ings of the hu­man mind. He played oc­cult-in­spired par­lor games, such as au­to­matic writ­ing and draw­ing, with his like-minded friends, which al­lowed them to step di­rectly into the mystery of their un­con­scious as they let their pen­cils roam across a page with no force — sort of like a Ouija board, ex­cept they weren’t try­ing to con­tact the dead, but their own deep­est selves. In Ex­quis­ite Corpse, typ­i­cally four peo­ple added to a draw­ing, word, or phrase on pa­per with­out be­ing able to see one an­other’s con­tri­bu­tions un­til it was com­plete, cre­at­ing un­likely jux­ta­po­si­tions that could con­fuse, de­light, and in­spire.Col­lage, an­other medium that Sur­re­al­ists used to foster chance and star­tling com­bi­na­tions of im­agery, is the fo­cus of a new ex­hi­bi­tion at Nisa Tou­chon Gallery, Ex­quis­ite Corpse: The Sur­re­al­ist Ten­dency in

Col­lage, open­ing on Fri­day, Nov. 13. The ti­tle is sort of a sur­re­al­ist game all by it­self be­cause it is en­tirely con­cep­tual. There are no Ex­quis­ite Corpse projects in the show, yet chance is still at play. The three par­tic­i­pat­ing artists — Hope Kroll, Sherry Parker, and Frank Whip­ple — hap­pen to be from Cal­i­for­nia. They have never met in real life, but they are friends on Face­book. All are in­ter­ested in vin­tage il­lus­tra­tions and im­ages of ob­so­lete tech­nol­ogy. Kroll and Parker are rep­re­sented by Nisa Tou­chon, while on the ad­vice of an­other Face­book friend, Whip­ple cold-called a few weeks ago to see if the col­lage-fo­cused gallery might be in­ter­ested in his work. Within days, his To­ken Totems se­ries was se­lected as part of the up­com­ing show.

The works in the se­ries are tribal-look­ing ver­ti­cal col­lages made up of gray-scale il­lus­tra­tions cut from ob­so­lete books on in­dus­try and ma­chin­ery that date to the late 19th cen­tury. Whip­ple used to deal in rare books and ephemera, which is when he be­gan stockpiling ma­te­ri­als. He also col­lages in color, fas­ci­nated by out­dated print­ing meth­ods that re­sulted in over­sat­u­ra­tion and bleed­ing lines. At first glance, the To­ken Totems works ap­pear to be graphite draw­ings, but the in­tri­cate tex­tures and shapes — seashell, stone, steel, en­grav­ings, and ma­chine parts — are con­toured with scis­sors.

“I’m in­ter­ested in what the im­age sug­gests to me. What the thing starts out as doesn’t in­ter­est me as

What the thing starts out as doesn’t in­ter­est me as much as what I can al­ter it into and cre­ate a dif­fer­ent ob­ject out of what had been de­picted. — Frank Whip­ple

much as what I can al­ter it into and cre­ate a dif­fer­ent ob­ject out of what had been de­picted,” he said. Many of the an­tique il­lus­tra­tions he uses con­tain ref­er­ences to other im­ages, such as when faces are hid­den in­side ma­chin­ery in the ar­range­ment of nuts and bolts. He echoes this prac­tice in To­ken Totems; in the piece

Tip­ping the Point, a loony face gog­gles out at the viewer from a com­po­si­tion that is os­ten­si­bly a col­lec­tion of ar­row­heads and en­grav­ings point­ing to a con­nec­tion with the divine. In this and other work, he is play­ing with ideas about the un­fixed na­ture of sci­en­tific law, which can change when a new dis­cov­ery is made, some­times shift­ing what we thought of as re­al­ity. He also ex­plores the evo­lu­tion of hu­mans into more ma­chine-like or alien-hy­brid crea­tures. “It’s the sug­ges­tions of things that are rec­og­niz­ably hu­man, but more than hu­man. A per­son might imag­ine they’re see­ing a face in there, and then all those fa­cial fea­tures can be de­con­structed and turned into some­thing else, some­thing new.”

Kroll has been work­ing in col­lage for 15 years, uti­liz­ing vin­tage illustration, ty­pog­ra­phy, and old pa­per. Ini­tially her pieces were the size of books, but they have grown as large as 30 inches square, or tall and skinny, 10 inches wide and 57 inches long. Her im­ages — of iso­lated chil­dren sur­rounded by med­i­cal equip­ment, of birds perched in twin­ing veins and blood ves­sels, of dis­em­bod­ied limbs and or­gans ar­ranged exquisitely among but­ter­flies — are three-di­men­sional. She uses bits of archival foam core to lift cut-pa­per ob­jects from the sur­face and then weaves other ob­jects be­hind, giv­ing a swarm of mul­ti­col­ored in­sects swirling about a man’s head, for in­stance, the ap­pear­ance of fly­ing off the col­lage and into the room.

Kroll uses all man­ner of cu­ti­cle scis­sors — from dime-store deals to the ex­pen­sive Swiss-made va­ri­ety — to cut out her im­ages, only tak­ing up an X-Acto knife when an ob­ject’s in­tri­cacy leaves her no other op­tion. For Kroll, the cut­ting is a sep­a­rate step en­tirely from com­pos­ing a col­lage. She en­joys the chal­lenge of cut­ting with pre­ci­sion. “The more te­dious it is to cut out, the more ex­cited I am to cut it out.” She saves the ob­jects in files and draw­ers, and goes through them later when con­sid­er­ing what kind of col­lage she wants to make. “I couldn’t use them right away, be­cause they would be too pre­cious.”

Un­like her fel­low artists, she hes­i­tated when asked if she con­sid­ers her­self a sur­re­al­ist. “A lot of peo­ple do. Dis­parate el­e­ments to­gether are al­ways go­ing to be sur­real,” she said, so she fits into the cat­e­gory, but her cur­rent work is fo­cused on process and de­sign. In the past, her per­sonal psy­cho­log­i­cal is­sues were re­flected in her col­lage, such as the re­peat­ing im­age of an iso­lated child. Kroll’s child­hood asthma forced her to find quiet, in­door things to do, which is how she came to draw­ing and paint­ing. She ex­plained that the birds that re­cur did at one time rep­re­sent mes­sen­gers of the sub­con­scious, at­tack­ing from within and with­out, but they have less emo­tional sig­nif­i­cance than they used to. “I still have those el­e­ments, be­cause I can’t ex­cise that, but when I go to make a piece now, they’re more about com­po­si­tion and color.”

“I’ve been work­ing in col­lage since the mid-’80s, and I find it an ab­so­lute rush from start to fin­ish,” Parker told

Pasatiempo. “I never start with a pre­con­ceived idea or an im­age — that’s the fun of it.” Like the oth­ers, she gets her old books, mag­a­zines, and pa­pers from es­tate sales, li­brary sales, eBay, and other troves for dis­carded col­lage-making ma­te­ri­als. She also takes ab­stract pho­to­graphs to use as back­ground. A shadow on the wall be­hind a sculp­ture at SITE Santa Fe be­came the spi­ral pat­tern in One Trick Pony ,in which a cen­taur-like crea­ture bal­ances on a beach ball like a cir­cus per­former. Parker uses a re­cur­ring com­po­si­tional mo­tif of a fig­ure, cen­tered on the page, dis­play­ing a bit of flair and move­ment, of­ten kick­ing up one leg.

“Most of my work is very lyri­cal. It is and isn’t vis­ually chal­leng­ing — or it is in a pos­i­tive way, not an ugly way,” she said. “It re­flects my ir­rev­er­ent re­sponse to and refuge from th­ese times. The Sur­re­al­ists called the time af­ter World War I a ‘fu­ri­ous folly.’ Ev­ery­thing was in dis­ar­ray. Com­par­isons to now are easy to draw.” This stance is man­i­fested in her col­lage through non­sen­si­cal im­agery, de­con­struc­tion and hu­man­iza­tion of ma­chines, and an­thro­po­mor­phic crea­tures unit­ing man, woman, and an­i­mal.

“When I come across im­ages I might use in the near fu­ture, I cut them out. I wind up with a lot of stuff, kind of like a psy­chother­a­pist’s sand tray. You have all th­ese ob­jects and you start putting them to­gether, and at the end you say, ‘Oh, what does that say about me?’ When this new emer­gence tells me what I didn’t even know I was think­ing, that’s when I feel I’ve ar­rived.”


▼ Ex­quis­ite Corpse: The Sur­re­al­ist Ten­dency in Col­lage: Hope Kroll, Sherry Parker, and Frank Whip­ple

▼ Nisa Tou­chon Fine Art, 1925-C Rosina St., 505-303-3034

▼ Open­ing re­cep­tion, 5 p.m. Fri­day, Nov. 13; ex­hi­bi­tion through Dec. 12.

The more te­dious it is to cut out, the more ex­cited I am to cut it out. — Hope Kroll

I’ve been work­ing in col­lage since the mid-’80s, and I find it an ab­so­lute rush from start to fin­ish. I never start with a pre­con­ceived idea or an im­age — that’s the fun of it. — Sherry Parker

Be­low, Sherry Parker: One Trick Pony, 2015; col­lage, ink, and spray paint on pa­per; left, Hope Kroll: Pear Tree, 2015, 3-D col­lage with found ma­te­rial on pa­per; op­po­site page, Frank El­bert Whip­ple: Well, I De­clare,

Fig Tree in the Colonies, 2015, col­lage on an­tique cab­i­net card photo

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