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Thoughts on Archivability and Collage

August 9, 2010

“Distilled” – Collage with Weathered Papers, Tissue Paper,
and Vellum
8 x 8″ on 14 x 11″ 100 lb. Drawing Paper

In a recent comment, one of my readers PatQ asked if I was worried about my collage papers — specifically newsprint — not being archival. This was my response to Pat:

In answer to your question about the newsprint, it’s plain newsprint that I’ve either bought in pads or sheets. I’ve even used the sheets that were left over from moving last year. The thing is, all my collages are made up of all manner of papers, so I don’t worry about archivability. It’s my hope that the collages will last longer than the original papers would have without all the acrylic gels and mediums that have now been applied. They aren’t going to disintegrate with all the adhesives. And another thought for me is that a certain patina of age would only add to their appeal.

I know there are all degrees of opinion about collage and the materials used. If you wanted to be a purist, you could create all of your own papers using only acid free ones, coloring them with the best paints and inks. It’s a lovely idea, but I haven’t pursued it . . . yet.

Since then I’ve been thinking more about my collages and the materials I use. For me, the act of creating them, the concepts behind them, and the enjoyment they bring to the viewer are all more important to me than how long they last. I think we can relax about this issue and just have fun with collage, as the nature of the medium is that it’s made up of all kinds of different papers, fabrics, and other materials.

Therefore, I think the bottom line for me is that since my artworks are probably never going to be of concern to a museum conservator, and because I feel confident they will last for at least a couple of generations and perhaps longer, they will bring pleasure to their owners for some time to come. So enjoy the process and above all, have fun creating!

15 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2010 5:42 pm

    I tend to come to the same conclusions as you on the subject. I’m constantly Googling and reading about materials and their longevity, archivability, etc… and have to force myself to stop fretting about it. I wonder how many famous dead artists worried if their paper would yellow and disintegrate?

    • August 10, 2010 9:22 am

      You’re right, Chewy. If I were famous I think I’d worry about it even less than I do now!

  2. August 9, 2010 7:01 pm

    I made a series of collages in the 70s that had as part of them, pieces of fruit and flowers. Then I Xeroxed them. Well, since then the original collages rotted, dried up, and turned into dust. The colour copies I made of them still exist but… the collages are gone. As will I… soon enough.

  3. August 9, 2010 7:05 pm

    Beautifully said!

    Collages by Braque and Picasso from ~100 years ago appear to be aging quite gracefully… Today’s mediums are considerably more archival, even if our papers are not.

    But wouldn’t it be great if we needed to worry that a conservator will wonder how to clean or protect our work someday in the future?! To be in that position, we’ll need to do a lot of wonderfully amazing art… so back to work! 🙂

    • August 10, 2010 9:26 am

      I’m with you, Janice! Too busy creating to worry about it. Yes, it would be great, but time is running out for me to have those problems. Very liberating on so many levels! 🙂

  4. Nancy permalink
    August 10, 2010 12:53 am

    impermenance and then liberation – i think that is the process of being an artist –
    this is v. lovely martha

  5. August 10, 2010 1:16 am

    I started in 1972 working with acrylics. They have survived bravely. The only fear I would have if I store them in a portfolio face to face under pressure that there is a danger of layers sticking to one another. But this doesn’t have to happen if you store them with separating paper sheets in between.

    • August 10, 2010 9:28 am

      Yes, Eva. I think acrylics will hold up for quite some time. I don’t worry about them at all. And good point about protective layers.

  6. Kim Radatz permalink
    August 10, 2010 9:14 am

    Great topic, as always, Martha. Yes, I agree with your conclusion, but that might have something to do with my “anything but archival” materials! Still, I prefer to worry more over the concept than materials and let the pieces fall where they may. And that might literally happen some day, but I’ll have moved on by then.

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