Collage is a powerful art form that can turn the ordinary surreal. It can re-order history, create relationships where none existed, fracture memory and reshape a fact into a greater truth. Today, many traditional photo collage techniques can be accomplished with a computer. Those who like to see the touch of an artist's hand -- and wit -- will enjoy the warmth and poignancy of Only Human.
Exploration Explosion is a small work with maps in the far background covered by a layer of overlapping black and white photos of (mostly) male heads arranged in a rough cloud. Atop it all, in blazing color, a woman who is either alarmed or excited wears a glowing space helmet.
Without no words uttered, the artist tells us a) the early history of female astronauts at NASA; and/or b) that women have been excluded from historical accounts of many scientific activities; and/or c) this girl's riding a rocket while those guys are puffs of smoke down there on the ground.
2015, found paper on wood, 8.5" x 8.5"
Bad girl meets wimpy rat?
In a form Moran calls cut-outs, she mounts computer-collaged images to thick wood, applies a coat of clear epoxy, then mounts a group of wood-backed images to the wall as one work. The images project from the wall just far enough to create thin shadows. In Do you have the time?, three black swallows flit around a girl with a sheep's head, a boy with a rat's head, and a clock hovering over them. The figures, minus the heads, are enlarged paper dolls from the 40s or 50s. Both are bedecked with time-telling devices and found objects held in place by the epoxy coating.
Their silent story suggests something different than the nostalgic patina of a past era. After all, the girl is not just a sheep, she's a black sheep. Worse, she may be a bad girl. Her two-piece outfit shows a fair amount of skin. And she's carrying heat, a small pistol that clings to her short a-line skirt. While the boy may be a rat, his slender physique suggests he's no match for the girl. However, like swallows, symbols of hope in many cultures, the sheep and the rat seem hopeful their encounter will be worth their time.
Do you have the time?
2014, Resin, wood, paper, found objects, 32" H x 36" W
Photo: d. m. allison gallery
Most girls aren't perfect, most dogs are.
Two perfectly attired girls, one with dark hair, the other blond, are clearly role models of their era. Their dresses are hemmed to just above their knees, anklets turned down just so. They grasp their handbags securely, with confidence. Their dog has the graceful conformation of an Irish setter. The girls and their dog are mounted individually to contoured wood. Text covered paper, which may or may not be about them, covers the thick outlines. The three figures stand together on a carved wooden tray. On a shelf near them is a box with a setter silhouette on the lid. Inside, pegs are arranged to hold the three figures secure in the box.
Like a well-designed toy, the precise fit of the box and the potential stories of the figures offer opportunities for play and for reflection. With this set up, a girl could carry her stories with her, play quietly when so directed and not be the least bit put out. And the role models? They could wrestle with the dog, get burrs in their socks and grass stains on their knees. It would be their secret.
Tomboys, with detail
Photo: Joy Mullett
Despite its fairy forest appearance, Love could be described as a sobering meditation on modern romantic relationships. While the bear does appear to be interested in the girl, he's also in a hurry to get somewhere. (Bears have been included in folklore around the world, including the early 90s television show, Northern Exposure. In an episode titled Wake Up Call, Maggie's encounter with a handsome, cave-dwelling man who may be a bear, leaves her ready to abandon winter and greet spring.)
The girl in her cut-on-the-bias dress is not frightened by the running bear, but she is definitely distracted. Hanging over both of them is time. In the subdued background, people separated from the main characters by trees are engaged in everyday activities. Like other pieces in the exhibit, the main characters extend outward beyond the background as if escaping the environment they find themselves in.
2013, 27" H x 24" W
Photo: d. m. allison gallery
About three dozen works appear in this exhibit. The stories I ascribe to the exhibit are mine. Other viewers will likely have their own. The rich, compelling nature of this exhibit makes rich and compelling reactions possible.
If I were to look at this work again, I would look more deeply for geometric patterns. I would bring a magnifying glass. I would dig into dense background imagery for hidden messages and construction techniques. I would figure out a way to describe how the artist handles scale within each work.
Yes, it might take some time, but it would be time well spent.