Appropriating the Unwanted: Collage and creative reuse

Collage by Haydee Naula, 2012

We are thrilled that Haydee Naula is completing an internship with us this summer. Haydee first came to MFTA when she was working at PS 112 in Queens with the educational nonprofit (and MFTA recipient) City Year. In addition to helping out in our education studios and around the office, she’ll be sharing project ideas on our blog in the coming weeks. -Nat

When thinking about creating “a work of art,” one often thinks of an artist standing in front of a large clean canvas with a brush at hand. This is not always the case! Often times art materials are everyday things that can be found in our recycling bins. Although the  magazines, books, or pieces of paper we find in our bins already have designs and letters on them, we can use that to our advantage! We shall appropriate.

Appropriation is when you use something, originally not made by yourself, and alter it to make something completely new. Collages are great examples of appropriation because you can use the images or text to create your own narrative.

The following are steps for you to create your own collage work!

The first step is to gather your materials. Choose paper, scissors, glue/tape, and something to doodle with. I would suggest picking papers that are personally interesting to you and that also relate to one another in some way whether it be color, illustration, etc.

Thankfully for me, and for thousands of NYC public schools and nonprofit organizations, all the materials I needed were donations found in the MFTA paper section.

If you put your pieces of paper side by side, do they tell a story? This can be super silly or super serious as you want it to be.

Next would be the sketch. At times I get overwhelmed when I have to start any new project and have a lot of materials on my desk, so I settle down with a few quick sketches. This does not have to be refined and for some people is perhaps not necessary. These are just suggestions to follow and not a set rules to obey!

Begin cutting away. Start adding and removing where you seem fit. As you might have strayed from your sketch, you will notice how things change during the process making of your work but that is okay. Continue editing where you see fit.

Need a backing for your piece of art? Don’t reach out for that clean poster board! Use the back of an already made print or even part of a cardboard box. Your collage does not fit on the sheet? Not a problem either! Nobody will know what is behind your collage, and there is no rule about having a rectangular frame.

Tada! You are done!

There are stacks of magazines, prints, and other papers out there just waiting to be appropriated and reused! Here are examples of other artists and how they used their materials:

“Collage with Pressed Poppy” by Joe Brainard, 1976

 Click here to see more examples of appropriated art. To learn a bit about the history of collage, click here.

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