elin o’Hara slavick, 2023
I’ve been making collages my whole life. They are my constant companion, source of pleasure and the art I make for art’s sake. Many are made while traveling – in Canada, France, Japan, Turkey, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, and the U.S. – and many more are made at home and in the studio. Collages are hysterical surprises, fragmented landscapes, delirious layers of appropriation and ambiguity, shocks of juxtaposition, subconscious reactions, and automatic narratives in the surrealist spirit. Collage is a means to collide times, to simultaneously forget and remember, to process and refuse, resist and celebrate, to whimsically collect and discard scraps of everything, to combine the unconscious space of dreams and fantasy with the foreigner’s zone and a stranger’s perspective, to spin a magical narrative out of organic elements, tape, childhood drawings, playing cards, discarded books, postcards, art historical reproductions, magazines, xerox transfers, anatomical illustrations, vintage and new photographs, archives, maps, an old bible, and book covers.
Many of my collages focus on the female body and celebrate, critique, or otherwise make visual the complexity of feminism, pleasure, eroticism, psychological states, marginalized positions, sexuality, political identifications, and historical positions. Many of these conditions overlap and clash. Making feminist art is critical for emotional, political, and actual survival.
As much as my first monograph, Bomb After Bomb: A Violent Cartography and my second monograph, After Hiroshima, attempted to seriously engage ethical seeing, the collages disregard all limitations. While the human body was not “imaged” in the previous projects, it was always present. Women and children (civilians) suffer disproportionately more during wartime. In the spirit of German artist Hannah Hoch, who made collages at the dawn of the era of mechanical reproduction, I am working against the virtual tide of exclusive and temporary digital experience. I utilize and undo tangible representations of the past and present to offer images of a dystopian / utopian imaginary. Still engaged with ethical seeing, the collages subvert dominant ideologies and mainstream representations of desire, struggle and being. Collages are critiques of representation itself. Recent collages have addressed child detentions along the Mexico border, transgender rights, feminist liberation, climate change and terrorism – all through the use, juxtaposition, and transformation of images of the human body. A terrorist becomes a nursing mother. Trees suddenly have eyes and mouths. An image of important modernist artists – all men – is turned into a meeting of diverse women. I am making my own summary of the world.
I co-founded the group Collaborative Collage Collective (CoCoCo) with Olivia Huntley in 2019. A group of artists sends collages to each other, and we work on them to finish them, or send them back – or on to other collaborative collagists. Several of these collaborative collages are included in this exhibition – the first time they are being shown. You can find us on Facebook: COCOCO: Collaborative Collage Collective.
elin o’Hara slavick is an Artist-in-Residence at the University of California, Irvine. She was a Professor of Studio Art, Theory and Practice at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill from 1994 until 2021. Her interdisciplinary work critically explores war, memory, exposure, memorials, cartography, history, labor, feminism, the body, politics, and utopia/dystopia.
Slavick has exhibited her work internationally, and her work is held in many collections, including the Queens Museum, The National Library of France, The Library of Congress, The Nasher Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. She was represented by Cohen Gallery in LA. Slavick is the author of two monographs – Bomb After Bomb: A Violent Cartography with a foreword by Howard Zinn, and After Hiroshima, with an essay by James Elkins; a chapbook of surrealist poetry, Cameramouth; and Holding History in Our Hand for the 75th commemoration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
She has held artist residencies in Canada, France, the Unites States and Japan, most recently as a Huntington Art and Research Fellow at Caltech in Pasadena, California. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Images Magazine, FOAM, San Francisco Chronicle, Asia-Pacific Journal, Photo-Eye, and Actuphoto: Actualite Photographique, among other publications. She lives in Irvine, California with her epidemiologist husband Dr. David Richardson, two children, a dog and a cat.
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