Collaging Memory

Collage by Hailey Andrews

Collage has always been attractive to me as an art form for the same reasons that I find writing  alluring. Like writing, collage looks to pre-existing segments of language, such as images, to augment and communicate meaning. 

I started collaging around the time I was fourteen. It was during the heyday of Rookie Mag, and most of the collages I produced during that time had heavy-handed Rookie vibes. My main interest was to preserve the memories of my friends and I, as well as to document what I knew to be one of the most mythologized periods of one’s life: teenagehood! I was hypervigilant about documenting what I did, the things I was interested in, and what I felt and experienced during my early high school years. While I continued to collage often throughout high school, in general I gave much more of my attention to writing instead.

During my first two years at Yale, I didn’t have much time or material to collage, mostly because I didn’t have the same reserve that I have access to at home. I have accrued two shoe boxes of little tokens over the years: photo strips, fragments from magazines, receipts, along with other things like prints or poems that were given to me. I’m a thoroughly sentimental person, and I love to collect items that evoke memories of a certain time. I’m rather terrified of forgetting something from my past and often overestimate what I need to keep. I’m also extremely particular about the destiny of the items I collect, so many of the objects that are in my collage boxes are many years old and still have yet to find a permanent place. Being home for quarantine since March has given me a unique opportunity to continue to collect as well as to reflect and to locate purpose for all these images and objects. I’ve been collaging more than I ever have, in large part because I finally have access to items that usually would be cloistered away, stored on the other side of the United States. 

I started sewing in quarantine after finally convincing my grandmother to teach me. After a decade of begging, she finally gave in! It never occurred to me to stitch objects or images together until I saw Annegret Soltau’s work. All at once, that impulse seemed so obvious. I then became interested in using stitches, particularly zigzag stitches, which afford a certain degree of flexibility generally when you’re working with fabric. I also started using scraps from other sewing projects to use as the space to cast the rest of my images. 

collages by Hailey Andrews

The two fabric collages I’ve included use two pieces of scrap fabric from a gift I made for one of my close friends’ birthdays. There is a special kind of joy in knowing that part of this fabric dwells with another object, while this piece has an entirely different life. I would say that my collages have become increasingly thematically cohesive during quarantine. I’m really just interested in pursuing questions of memory, sentimentality, and inheritance. Different collages have objects with different source material; some of the collages utilize cards for letters that were written to my mother and then given to me. For instance, the piece of scrap fabric with the Valentine’s Day card was originally my mother’s. Some of the photos I use are personal; the image of mother and child is my maternal grandmother and mother. Others I found at thrift stores and couldn’t bear to leave behind, like the image of the boy with the ball or on the bicycle. I like the idea that with the red stitching, there is a different kind of urgency that binds the images and objects together. I’ve always felt red is the color of urgency, whether related to romance, desire, danger, or caution. I think what many of us are doing now during this time of unrelenting dwelling with ourselves is re-examining our relationships to the world around us and the people who populate our lives, and many of these collages use photographs, receipts, tickets from past experiences, and other items attached to a past and a community outside of oneself. 

I’m really excited by the prospect of continuing to use fabric or other textile materials to collage with. I’d love to make something wearable or perhaps a quilt. There’s also collaborative potential, so if you’re interested, let me know!

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