When Abby Sernoff of 111 Collage Design and I had a chance to meet, we discovered our shared experience with The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron, and how this led us into collage. I got my copy out, and looked in the index, and “collage” only has one mention, in the chapter, Recovering a Sense of Connection, as a kind of pictorial autobiography, with past, present, future and your dreams. That one exercise opened up a whole world of visual expression for me, a language I didn’t even know I knew.
I was reading The Artist’s Way in 1997 because I wasn’t writing poetry, and I was searching for ways to move toward my writing, rather than wrapping myself in avoidance. I had gone from getting my MFA in Creative Writing in 1992, to going to Library School in 1993, to getting my first library job at the reference desk of the University of Scranton in 1995, and I felt lost, as if I wasn’t real.
The beliefs we have about ourselves can be constricting, painful, damaging. What I noticed, when collecting images for my collage, was the open doors, a window, and up in the corner, the phrase, “Have your next Escape Clause.” This was unsettling, since I’d just gotten my first real, professional library job, and that was supposed to be my escape clause, my way to be self-sufficient in the face of a degree in poetry.
Now, I notice that I have two artists toward the center of the collage, Frida Kahlo and Maya Lin. I resonated with visual artists, but until I started making collages, I didn’t believe I had kinship with them.
The collage task was the main thing I took away from reading The Artist’s Way, Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message.” I kept making collages, and I enjoyed searching for images, and then laying them out on the table and making connections, finding patterns, symbols, colors. I was beginning to find my escape clause.
What became or is becoming your escape clause? What doors opened in your life?