The whole sweeping range of the human spirit’s expression is manifest in the history of art. The images of the past are like an enormous dictionary of ideas and forms that an artist can consult for the purpose of creating something new. Many artists have been taught that to make something new you have to depart from the past. But the “old masters” believed just the opposite: that to make new things you begin with the past starting with the motif, which has been passed down many times, like shoes, from one generation of artists to the next, from sibling to sibling in one big family.
For the motif of this collage, I reached way back in the family closet. I reached as far back as ancient Rome to the Garden of Livia at Primaporta. I used a branch of one of the painting’s fruit bearing trees and “translated” it into the medium of collage. This collage is made of paper colored with kids’ tempera paints, which I then cut into shapes (à la Matisse), “drawing” the forms by cutting and assembling.
I reached very far back for my image, far away in time and space, plucking an apple from an espalier centuries old. It ought to astonish us that today an artist can do this more easily than at any other time in history. One thing that makes the “modern” world what it is, in fact, is our unprecedented, easy access to the Past.
[Top of the post: A study of branches from the “Garden of Livia,” collage of colored papers, by Aletha Kuschan]