Gail Ramsey Wharton SWJ 2020

artist image

Artist Statement

My collages have been variously described as mysterious, unsettling, busy, and comic. All of these descriptors seem to fit at one time or another. The commingling of absurdity, comedy, and melancholy, for instance, are a part of my take on life, as well as my artistic intention. The artist who influenced me the earliest was Hieronymus Bosch. Hannah Höch, Max Ernst, and others of the Dadaist movement also exhibited a knack for combining elements in surprising ways that created in me a strong affinity for their work.

If I were to apply a title to the sixteen works in this collection, it might be “The Uncannys”. Many of these collages exude a kind of strange, cryptic quality, which is not so much a sought-after effect, as it is the way various scraps and pieces from my piles of saved ephemera and clippings find themselves rubbing shoulders in queer, uncanny ways.

Some of these works are made from the parts of disassembled books that have, in part, been torturously sewn and/or glued back together. I find an enjoyable irony in this reverse-gear activity. Two of the collages employ phrenology images, with their corresponding bigoted, misogynist, and narrow-minded Victorian attitudes. I expect at first glance these particular works will elicit some amusement, but a further look should reveal the darker, meaner aspects of what is going on.

In terms of process, most of my works are multi-layered mixed media on a substrate of Bristol Board. I sometimes scratch or sandpaper my surfaces, using glazes to enhance the textures and unify the colors. Usually I set up my workspace the night before so there’s little prep time when I begin working late the next morning. I often listen to music when I work but nothing that distracts my focus. Low volume, minimalist-patterned compositions by John Adams, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and others of that ilk, are often the right fit. Other times I prefer silence, especially if the only sound is rain falling on my studio skylight.

Two of these collages, done while I was steeping in the darkness of these times, take their meaning from songs. One of them is “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”, by Bob Dylan.

“…Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten, where black is the color, where none is the number. And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breath it, a hard rain’s gonna fall.”

The other is the consoling “Here Comes the Sun”, by George Harrison, performed by the Beatles.”

“. . . Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear. Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun. And I say, it’s alright. It’s alright.”