WORDS Cat Acree
First there was San Francisco in 2006, then New York in 2008, followed by Nashville in 2010, as each city became a hub for a Collage Collective, loosely knit groups of artists who come together to create collages and montage works. But at the heart of the Nashville Collage Collective is the founding foursome who call themselves the Four Corners: Lisa Haddad, Randy L Purcell, Eva Sochorova, and robert bruce scott. Artwork by the Four Corners is unlike any collage you’re likely to come across.
The San Francisco, New York, and Nashville Collage Collectives (the latter boasting more than 40 participating artists who meet monthly at Turnip Green Creative Reuse) are “just groups of people,” Haddad explains. They’re not all collaborators, but are casual, democratic participators who typically practice what Haddad calls “pure collage,” sticking to traditional materials of paper and glue. But on a rainy July afternoon, the first day in nearly six months that the Four Corners have met together, they chime in all at once to explain that their collaborative works are mixed media, with the especially unusual premise of having passed into each artist’s hands at least one time, if not more.
Indeed, talking with the Four Corners about their work is an experience as familiar and overlapping as one of their finished pieces. They’ve been working together since 2010, and their seven-year collaboration has grown into a mixture of familial (almost sibling-like) intimacy and a bubbling, brewing creative flow. All are full-time artists with disparate styles. Mixed-media painter Haddad first brought them all together after attending a collage workshop, and she has a tendency to rummage through the room, pointing out boxes of scrap material and finished and unfinished art worth noting. Purcell, who works with encaustic wax in his own work, often finishes the others’ sentences when they drift off the tail end of a thought. Abstract painter Sochorova, with her warm German accent, is known as the free-flowing one but proudly refers to herself as “the destroyer.” Sculptor scott, who is the only one with a background in collaboration, has a slight whistle in his “s” and a steady, unassuming gaze, and his soft voice tends to disappear just beneath the sound of the others.
All different, all distinct, but when it comes to collage, each artist is liberated—they’re encouraged to play, explore, or try out something completely different. “I think each of us is a mentor and a student,” Haddad says. “As soon as you put something on [the canvas]—which, by the way, you feel very free to do because you’re not finishing something—you can step out of your style, you can do something crazy.”
“It’s a reactive artwork,” Purcell says. “We react to each other’s pieces or strokes or whatever it is that we add to the piece. It’s constantly changing.”
There’s no such thing as a blank canvas here. Each artist brings in found objects, scraps (often taken from and shared with the Nashville Collage Collective) or one of their own works that needs a new eye. And then it’s passed around the circle, from artist to artist, until it returns to the original owner. At the beginning of their collaboration, the four would assemble and discuss changes throughout the process. But like finishing each other’s sentences, the cyclical process has become more and more intuitive, the intimacy of the rotation more comfortable. Now, individual changes disappear into the work. Feelings might get a little hurt when favorite marks are covered up, but even this is met with understanding, as the mutual respect of the process runs deep.
Purcell may spill coffee on a big sheet of paper; Sochorova may cut it up. Sochorova covers a painting with blue stripes; Purcell reorients the entire piece by 45 degrees—and then someone added triangles (“My triangles,” scott says, barely audible), and thus House of the Rising Moon comes together. The chopped-up (thanks to Purcell) There’s a Lot Going on and I’m Not Even There speaks for itself. Even to the viewer, the diverse textures and unexpected layers of these pieces beg to be touched.
Choosing an ending point is clearly one of the hardest things for the group, and scott describes each artwork as having four endings, and therefore four beginnings. At each work’s end—whatever that end— there’s no one voice. Purcell calls it a conversation. scott calls it “rejoice.” Sochorova calls it “communion.” An awareness of what community is, of what people can do when they work together.”
For the Four Corners, the time has come to start fresh—always endings, always beginnings. Each Corner will keep the piece or two they love most, and all other collages will be auctioned at Turnip Green Creative Reuse’s gallery in an online silent auction that will be preceded by an opening reception on September 9.
“We all have a humble side where we want to learn more and want to get better and try something new,” Haddad says. “And that makes it possible to keep going.”
“We react to each other’s pieces or strokes or whatever it is that we add to the piece. It’s constantly changing.”
The Four Corners Retrospective and Monthlong Auction opens during the East Side Art Stumble on September 9 at the Green Gallery, Turnip Green Creative Reuse. For more information, visit www.thefourcornersart.com.