Falling apart / gluing together

I have a bunch of collage books. They’re generally not art books but rather something between pattern studies and wish lists for interior design.*

There’s a freedom in cutting and pasting without worrying too much about the results.

I pulled a notebook out yesterday that’s falling apart. This intersection of picture-edge and coil failure is probably my favorite shot from the book.

I used to use rubber cement. It often fails with time. I like the marks it leaves behind too.

You’ll notice some themes: barns and fabric, angels and antique maps of the heavens, flowers. Death and ghosts. Love and more flowers.

The peony/Browning poem with a picture of D as a young boy is a copy from another Sketchbook Project, the one I cannot find on the site. The theme was : Jackets, Blankets, and Sheets.

Rubber cement mark on lower left.

Sometimes the order of the images matters. I like the way the three above relate to each other.

And sometimes (often?), the collages reveal that I was thinking about my novel, like the ones below.


In the period that I wrote about (1737 to 1744), many of the enslaved had just been kidnapped from Africa. They were called “saltwater slaves” or “comyahs” (as opposed to “binyahs”) (say those two words aloud and they’ll make sense). In other words, in the early colonial period, some slaves were born here and some in Africa. I’ve thought a lot about what it would have meant to have memories of home, to have been ripped away from a coherent society and family, to be force marched and shipped to these shores into lives of brutality, abject humiliation, and privation.

These geographical and soul wounds can be viewed through the lens of indigo. Eliza Pinckney was an early innovator, but the slaves who harvested, aerated, and acidified the batches of dye may have had very specific memories about the crop, not to mention expertise. I learned about the Tuaregs of the Sahara, also known as “the blue men” for their intense deep indigo blue turbans — cloth which when unwrapped would leave blue shadows across their foreheads. I learned that in some areas of Western Africa cloths were woven with indigo threads to swaddle babies at birth. The same cloths would be worn at weddings and then used as shrouds at the end. Also, I learned that men tended to be the weavers.

Sea Island Indigo workshop, SC. 2014

I could say more about all of this but will leave it here for now.

Image of gate leading out of barracoon, west coast of Africa, plus other images.

* Exceptions: The Sketchbook Projects, collected collages done under Acey’s direction, and two books of Paris Collage Club works (one done, one in progress).

6 thoughts on “Falling apart / gluing together

  1. Nancy

    Dee~ I really like your collage work…each one, such a story. True art. I think, for me, the first image speaks the loudest to me. I like the very realness of those textures and colors, Plus, anything with a horse these days is right up my alley.
    When I saw that ripped piece of paper, I was reminded how a million years ago someone taught me that the direction you rip the paper will make that white tear mark on one side (front) or the other (back) (very hard to write this well). At the time, that was such an Ah-Ha to me! You mean I can control where that white ripped mark is?? Amazing!! haha

    1. deemallon Post author

      What?! Mark me as head blown. I did not know this about the tearing. Of course I knew that paper has a grain and will tear in a neat strip in one direction and a jagged mess in the other. But the white showing business? Oh my god.

  2. Marti

    It is one thing to remove yourself from your homeland and bravely venture forth to a new land, hoping for new opportunities, and a brighter future. Equally knowing that there will be hardships but that kindness, good sponsors, hard work, determination and hope, will be your touchstones. This is how my parents viewed their coming from Spain to America. It is entirely another experience to be ripped away from your world, with nothing to anchor yourself except the deepest instinct of survival and to be thrust into a nightmare…

    Third image from the bottom, the dark shrouded shape to me resembles a sphinx and I recall that one of the definitions of sphinx from the Greek is “to bind”. What a powerful image to have in this post that speaks of slavery because within this shape, I see a person, limbs outstretched, reaching…

    1. deemallon Post author

      You’re right to point out that the immigrant experience does not resemble the slave experience even remotely. In reading about slavery, the first heartbeat is horror and the second is admiration for all the ways Black people found to endure it — sometimes with resilience, specks of joy, and resistance.

  3. Liz A

    rubber cement glue … and now I’m remembering the metal cylinder cans, the stiff brushes attached to the screw top lids, and the smell that pervaded the art room (well ventilated it was not) … 20+ kids, some making “scars” on their arms, others blowing on hands coated with the stuff, the better to roll off a large gob … how cool it was to dry the glue on two pieces of paper and then stick them together … if you could just wait long enough for it to dry

    well, that was quite a trip down memory lane … these days I’m happy to have Yes! paste to work with … and I envy you the time you have devoted to becoming adept at digital collage … time well-spent

    1. deemallon Post author

      I remember those metal containers. With the brush built in to the cap! I’m also, BtW, still using the YES paste you sent to me a while back.


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