The Collage Caper

The Collage Caper

When I was in college, even back in high school, I created many collage pieces as assignments – cut paper studies in composition. Collage, by definition, comes from the French word, Coller, which means to glue or stick together. It’s become an artform used in both visual art and music. In this writing I will be focusing on the visual art form of collage.

The basic concept of cut paper collage is taking newspapers, magazines, and (Heaven forbid) books, and cutting words, pictures, and graphics out of them with scissors and assembling the individual pieces into a pleasing (or not so pleasing) composition. The cut paper elements are then pasted, or glued onto a backing surface, such as a sheet of paper or cardboard. The results can be a fun (or serious) and often quirky piece of artwork. My most infamous piece of collage was created back in elementary school. 

I was fascinated with one of the prettiest girls in the sixth grade. She was tall with long, straight, brown hair. Her face was a precious jewel, and her smile was a drop of sunshine. Yes, she was one of the prettiest, but she was also one of the most popular, so popular that I was afraid to look at her, let alone talk to her.

One evening, scraps of the Sunday paper and old magazines were strewn all over the living room rug. I was carefully and meticulously cutting out letters. Large ones, small ones, upper case and lower case, serif, sanserif, script, italic, bold, all types of type. To the casual viewer it would have seemed I was piecing together a ransom note. But instead, I was crafting a love note.

The next morning, before my mother gave me my sack lunch, I stuck the pasted note into my backpack. As my mom said goodbye, I grabbed the bag and ran out the door and hurried to school. Usually I just walked, but that day, I was so anxious that I was practically running. Okay, I was running. When I arrived at school, it was too early to go inside. I walked about the schoolyard with my hands in my pockets staring at the ground while the other children were playing jump rope, hopscotch, or tag. Unexpectedly I saw her, and I was just standing there frozen like a little snowman. Soon the bell rang, and all the kids rushed toward the doors like a stampede of cattle. Except me, I walked slowly and was the last one to their seat.

Our teacher gave us our morning assignment. All the kids around me were busy writing while I was sitting there staring at my feet. I looked over at her. She sat two seats ahead of me and one row over. Suddenly, I thought she was turning around so I quickly looked at my feet again.

Morning recess came and the students all shuffled out the door and onto the playground. I took the note out of my pack. It was a bit crinkled and one of the corners was torn. I slowly walked over and hesitantly placed the note down on her chair. I stared at it for a moment and wondered if she’d know it was from me? I hoped she would, and yet I was afraid she would. I then hurried out to play.

When recess was over and the students were back in the classroom, she saw the piece of paper with the cut-out letters pasted upon it. She picked it up and looked around the room then looked back at the note.

She walked over to Keifer and showed it to him. He too looked around the room then shrugged his shoulders. Skitch did the same thing when she showed it to him. Kiefer and Skitch tried to figure out who the collage artist was. Although, after a few days of searching for clues, the caper faded into the past and the two boys never solved the mystery.

One day, when Jessica and I were alone in the classroom, I confessed to her. I told her that I was the collage artist. She wondered why I didn’t just tell her. I told her I was afraid she wouldn’t like me, and she’d just laugh in my face. She assured me that she wouldn’t have done that, and that she did like me… as a friend. I then told her that I was always the friend never the… whatever it would be. She told me not to worry, that someday I would be the ‘whatever’ and not just the friend. And that I wouldn’t need to use cut paper to tell them how I felt.

Today, I use semi unrelated shapes, angles, and colors, like I did with those cut-out letters, and fit them together into one complete, cohesive composition. In a way, my geometric paintings are much like that cut paper collage I created for Jessica all those years ago.

Words and Works by Denny Driver

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