Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fitting the Pieces into Place

In the spring of 2000 when my Asheville potter son, Josh was 20 years old, he came across an old journal he had kept when he was 16.

“Everything in it was silly. I hated it,” he said, in answer to the question I posed ‘when did you start journal collaging and why?’

“I wondered who was writing all this ridiculous stuff,” he continued, “but I also knew it was an important part of my history that I couldn’t just throw away.”

That first journal became Josh’s prototype to so many others. He explained how he covered up its contents with collage, in an attempt to disguise what was embarrassing, leaving only little snippets of the original text as hints into that time.

“At that point, I had a sketchpad, was keeping a photo album, and a journal. I combined them all into only one book to carry around,” he explained.

“What a relief to put everything in one place!” I responded.

Josh went on to describe other details that fostered his interest in collage journal art. One particularly striking experience was when he discovered Dan Eldon’s published collage journal (Dan was a young photo-journalist who was killed tragically in Africa). Josh was at a friend’s college graduation party when he spotted the book and immediately became was transfixed.

“I sat down with it. People wandered over to see what I was doing, looked at it some, and then went back to the party. I never got up. I looked at it for hours,” Josh said.

“But you know, mom,” he added, “the books that you made helped …”

“What books? The homemade ones we used to make?” I interrupted. I had forgotten for a moment that I kept scrapbooks and baby books that both my boys grew up looking at.

“I was fascinated looking at the baby books you made for me and Dylan. A lot of those pages were done in collage. You were definitely outside the box. And you told us more than once about the importance of keeping a journal.” Josh reminded me.

As he spoke, I began to remember. Indeed, when Josh was 11, he and a friend traveled around the country with alternative education pioneer Jerry Mintz, and the only academic practice I demanded of him was that he keep a journal of his experiences.

“Even a shopping list is interesting to me once it’s a year or two old." Who said that? You did, mom! And now I’m always picking stuff up to use in my journals, scraps of garbage that other people don’t even notice,” Josh said.

Like mother like son? It’s true, except for the fact that when it comes to making art, Josh surpasses me by miles.

Post Notes: Collaging runs in our family here. View pages from my collage journal here. That's Josh's brother Dylan in the forefront with him looking at Josh's art scrapbook sometime in the mid 80s. Some pages from Josh's collage journals were recently featured in an art show in Winston Salem, NC.

Note: Originally posted on on May 6, 2006.

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