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The Art of Collage, part 3: Contemporary Collage Artists

 collage of arches revealing man with woman emerging from head and surrealistic landscape by sharmon davidson

Contemplation of Consequence, hand-cut collage, 8.5 x 7.5 inches

01 SEPTEMBER, 2021

"Collage is more than just an art style. Collage is all about bringing different elements together. Once you form a sensibility about connection, how different elements relate to each other, you deepen your understanding of yourself and others." ~ Bryan Collier

Contemporary Collage Artists

This is the third in a series of posts about some of the most well known and respected collage artists, both historical and contemporary.  In "The Art of Collage, part 1", I introduced some early pioneers in the genre who helped collage to gain acceptance as a legitimate art form. In the second post, "The Art of Collage, part 2", I shared the work of some outstanding contemporary collage artists.

For the sake of brevity (haha!), I decided to end that post well before approaching the end of my list of favorites. So, again, I'm highlighting the work of several contemporary collage artists whose innovations, dedication to collage as fine art, and overall quality of execution have helped to bring collage to a wider audience.

Once again, my disclaimer:

My choices were based partly on my own personal taste, as well as a desire to focus on artists who had achieved a certain degree of success and notoriety.  I also wanted to represent a wide variety of styles. This is not a definitive list. In addition, please note that I didn't include digital or assemblage artists; I'm saving them for later posts.

Lisa Hochstein

Lisa Hochstein is based in Santa Cruz, CA, and holds a BFA in painting from the University of Massachusetts. She works in painting and textiles as well as collage. Formally speaking, her collage work is inspired by the structures of contemporary architecture. Many of the works seen here are made from salvaged sheet music covers from the early part of the 20th century. I'm captivated by the contrast of the beautiful patina of these well-worn vintage materials with the more modern, grid-like compositions.

pale toned abstract collage with letter fragments by Lisa Hochstein

abstract geometric collage in pale turquiose and cream

Unadorned 2, salvaged paper Adrift, salvaged paper

To find out more, I recommend this in-depth interview in which Hochstein states:

"In a social sense, I think art matters because it is an expression of a desire and need to make contact with other humans. It is only through contact and connection—especially with that which feels foreign, other or new—that we develop appreciation and compassion."

abstract paper collage by Lisa Hochstein

abstract paper collage with red verticals on cream background by Lisa Hochstein

Colin Johnson

Colin Johnson is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art who now resides near the Twin Cities of Minnesota. His art practice is two-fold: he works as both an illustrator and as a gallery artist. While his illustrations  are painted, his personal gallery work is done in collage. This is bit surprising, as painting is usually seen as a more "serious" art form. As someone who's trying to promote the legitimacy of collage, it makes me like him even more.

paper collage in blue tones by Colin Johnson

Moonlight Activity

paper ephemera collage on shape of the United States with praying hands

How We Pray

very detailed intricate collage with skeleton by Colin Johnson

Everything and Nothing

I also love the utterly unrestrained maximalism of these works. You could look at them forever and still not see everything. The fact that most of these carefully cut-out elements come from salvaged vintage ephemera makes them even more interesting. Below is a very good video of Johnson narrating his own work. Enjoy!

Louise Forbush

abstract paper ephemera collage with Asian writing by Louise Forbush

Wings, 12 x 12 x 2

Mill Valley, California artist Louise Forbush makes wonderfully rich collages with an Asian aesthetic. Her work is based on the compositional principles of Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), which she studied in Japan. While there, she collected large quantities of handmade papers. These, along with pages from old books, calligraphy, gold leaf, bits of natural materials and found objects now make up her collages.

abstract paper collage in cream and blue by Louise Forbush

abstract paper ephemera collage by Louise Forbush

Blue Air, 12 x 12 x 2 Water's Edge, 12 x 12 x 2

You can often glimpse the forms of abstracted lanscapes and cities in these elegant works. But even more than that, her work is about the materials. Forbush says,

"My art is about paper. How it feels, how it tears, how it reflects or absorbs light. Torn, cut, or folded, multiple layers create a sculptural terrain for each piece."

abstract paper collage in coral colors by Louise Forbush

Golden Pavillion, 12 x 12 x 2

From her artist statement:                 

"Those delicate pages contain the brushed ink of other eras, along with the folds, dust, and wormholes from their many journeys. The idea of this suggested but unknown history intrigues me."

I love that.

Matthew Cusick

Matthew Cusick creates large scale collages using pieces cut from maps (one of my own favorite materials!) as a substitute for paint. Not surprisingly, some of these works take 300 or more hours to produce.

“Maps have all the properties of a brushstroke: nuance, density, line, movement, and color,” he says.

collage of reclining woman's face made of maps by Matthew Cusick

Bonnie, 2004, 42 x 60 in

bird's eye view of city with roads and overpasses collage

Course of Empire (Mixmaster 1), 2003, 30 x 42 in

Cusick's collages emcompass a wide array of subjects -  portraits, ocean waves, wildlife, cars, landscapes, and even panoramic views of complex freeways. Rather than relying on the juxtaposition of (seemingly) unrelated objects to tell a story, his work bridges the gap between painting and collage. Beyond color and line, another layer of meaning exists in the informational content of the maps, which often relates to the subject. I find that so intriguing. But most of all, I love these collages for their beauty.

huge ocen wave made of collaged maps by Matt Cusick

Kayli's Wave, 2013, 42 x 63 in

To read more about Matthew Cusick's work in his own words, check out this interview by Nick Triolo of Orion Magazine. 

female figure collaged from paper maps by Matt Cusick

    Jezebel, 2012, 21 x 14 in

For Satellite Journal / Photography and styling: Tre and Elmaz / Model: Genevieve Welsh

Lola Dupré

collage distorted image of a sad young girl by lola dupre

Themis with Lisa Carletta

Scotland-based artist and illustrator Lola Dupré is known for her own distinct style of collage. Instead of juxtaposing contrasting elements from different sources, each of her pieces is made from a single photo. Beautifully surreal and often incredibly creepy at the same time, her collages are made by obssessively cutting and pasting small pieces of paper. By repeatedly overlapping parts of the subject, she creates distorted images that have been compared to something you'd see in a funhouse mirror.

" I am very happy to be a medium through which images can emerge. Often I find working to be a meditative thing, time flies, an image emerges that surprises me. I feel rested and tired at the same time. I think in a process like a jigsaw puzzle it gives you a way to silence the noise, forget what might be worrying you and totally occupy the moment. I usually have a faint image in my head, when I complete a work I see it clearly for the first time. The feeling can be euphoric."  - Visual Atelier 8 interview, 2020 


Though Dupre is self-educated, it's clear that she has put in the time and practice necessary to attain a very high level of skill. At first glance, I thought her work must be digital. But when viewed up close, her devotion to craft is obvious. It's amazing to see all the detailed hand-work in each of these pieces, and to realize how time-consuming some of them must have been. I would love to watch her work sometime, just to see how she organizes the 20 to 30 copies of the original photo that she uses to create one piece. I may be biased toward hand-made collage, but I do admire that kind of dedication.

collage distorted image of woman biting her thumb nail by lola dupre

collage exploded image of Frida Kahlo by lola dupre

collage of trippy distorted face by Lola dupre

Ben Lewis Giles

The work of British artist and illustrator Ben Lewis Giles is the first thing I think of when I hear the words, "classic collage." He uses traditional methods (basic cut-and-paste) and vintage image sources to create surreal images.  I'm not quite sure why, but to me, those things are quintessential collage. Surprisingly, he's quite young, which I wouldn't have guessed from his work.

collage of woman with castle and many things coming out of her head

All in My Head

After getting a degree in Fine Art from Kingston University, Giles left London and moved to the smaller city of Norwich. He still works out of his apartment there, doing commissions for big companies like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Google, and Apple, to name only a few.

When asked in an interview for Creative Lives in Progress what skills are essential for his job, he answered, "Cutting things out neatly, compromise, hoarding and patience." I think that sums it up nicely.

cut paper collage of little boy on a tiger with butterfliesby Ben Giles
collage of many people coming out of a huge camera by Ben Giles

What is Your Spirit Animal? Through the Lens

Giles says he is inspired by, "Nature, surrealism, exploration, darkness, joy, metamorphosis, empathy....  I like weird things that make me laugh, silly characters, things being a bit nonsensical and irreverent. Creating characters or scenes that are a bit off, alien, or transcendental to the people involved."  

monochromatic collage of people with fish heads cooking something in a large pot

A personal piece, The Birth of a People

Katie McCann

collage of red creatures by Katie McCann

Self-taught collage artist Katie McCann creates images of a strange and beautiful imaginary world. Known on social media as beetleblossom, she is British by birth but now lives and works in Berkeley, California. In her own words:

"I create collages of strange hybrid creatures made up of insects, birds, shells, human bones, plants and fashion couture. They are part science fiction and part fairy story." (from Eclectix Art interview)

Red in Tooth and Claw

paper collage by artist Katie McCann

collage old fashioned doll face with botanical and anatomical illustrations

complex collage in shades of green by Katie McCann

Green Jelly

strange hybrid creature collage by Katie McCann

About her inspirations, McCann says,"My ideas mainly come from my own childhood memories. As a child I was an avid reader and I lived in a wonder world of cryptozoology, science fiction, folk lore and botany."

That's the same world that I lived in - no wonder her work looks so familiar to me. I'm actually not kidding about that - one of the reasons I love her work so much is that it reminds me of my childhood. Whatever world she's portraying, I feel at home there.

Green Fever

Coming Up...

But wait! There's more! Or, at least, there will be...

I hope you've enjoyed this third part of my series about contemporary collage artists. The hardest part of these posts was deciding which artists I should include. I don't know if there will be a part 4, but I'm definitely planning to do at least one post about digital collage art and artists, and probably a short series on assemblage as well.

Also in the works is a post about why I love both making and looking at collages, and another one about collage artists and copyright law. So many good collage-y collage things to write about! So check back soon, or better yet, follow my blog by email by using the form at the bottom of the page. And to all you contemporary collage artists out there, keep up the good work!

mixed media collage of woman in long dress stepping into a fairy tale scene

One of my own "map-ish" collages, The Traveler's Tale: Once Upon a Time, mixed media/collage on multi-media board, 28 x 20 inches


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