When I handed Jim Riswold the postcard for Paper Chase, he said: “Well, why don’t you do this?” I replied that I do do that. He just didn’t know. When I wrote about it the next morning in my diary, I blurted out: Can the world finally be ready for my photomontages?
You may think that it’s a stupid question, but it unfortunately has one of those stories behind it. Once again, someone is telling me what I cannot do. (That is why I recognized it so clearly the other day.)
I was off to New York in 1986, having had a nice run of self-instigated shows in San Francisco which were well received. These shows were multi-media and usually involved all kinds of collaborative efforts, but at the core were always my montages. It was the art dealer Jeffrey Browning (of Modernism then; he is no longer there) who told me that my montages were all fine and well and that maybe someday I could be as good as Hannah Hoch, but that was all history anyway. No one would show me really seriously unless I was A Painter.
Isn’t it amazing how someone’s words can make a mark? Someone’s very silly words? I should have realized that I was already doing quite well, thank you, and said so, but I respected so much the position of this man in the art world.
Luckily I never quit cutting and pasting, but I actually did not show my photomontages the whole time I lived in New York – and never tried. We are talking altogether a gap of 17 years.
It was not until I sent some work to the Littman Gallery at PSU in 2002 that they resurfaced. And I did it as an afterthought – I was actually sending slides of paintings but threw in some printouts of scans of collages just as some added effort. The curators had no interest in my paint, but these paltry printouts found their way into getting me an exhibition.
I went over all of my collages at this point, a collection which starts around 1977, with a cut-up of the Clash. I looked over everything and we’re talking hundreds of works. Since it is paper, I was able to keep it all, something very difficult to do with other mediums. And what I found was my life – because after all, these works (for the most art) were not made for exhibitions. They were made for me. They contained a certain veracity difficult to muster in works made for the public and while I have ditched a narrative when it comes to paint, I like to tell stories via montage.