Tag Archives: Dadaism

Schwitters Again (Still)

Mixed Media on Cardstock 8 1/2” x 11”

“Lemon Ginger Tea” DS

The Tate Britain had an exhibition of Kurt Schwitter’s work in January 2013. I saved the “Arts and Ideas – BBC Radio 3 – R3 Arts: Night Waves” podcast to listen again to the interview between host Martin Sweet and the art critic Charlotte Mullins. They are recorded as saying he was one of the great figures of European Dadaism. About Kurt Schwitters work, they celebrated that it was: “extravagantly impure embracing all conceivable materials: bus tickets, boxes of licorice allsorts, cotton wool… He called his creations: “merz”.

As a collagist myself, I naturally work ‘after Schwitters’. It is my heart style. I save and glue anything from my life. Again and again I come back to reading about his methods. His room of ‘merz’ amazes and inspires me. (Imagine a room that becomes smaller from the sides and ceiling as he adds architectural found pieces of wood in white.) I enjoy shape and pattern. I find both in Schwitters’ collages.

The work is intuitive and organic. It flows naturally from life. It becomes cultural artifact witnessing everyday lifestyle and a new kind of legacy documenting the intimacy of the personal for the family. It is non-hierarchical and so easily accessible as a practice for rich and poor of any age or culture.

I consider what I will collage in the studio today – some black and white wrapping paper from a generous Korean friend, a parking receipt with blue, and some emerald green foil from my favourite chewing gum. This I may top off with a hot pink sticky note. The possibilities are endless. Made in the image of God, we too create not ex nihilo but out of the givens of the daily detritus of our lives – reminiscent of the leftovers from the feeding of the five thousand. In the workshops I pass this on. In feeding others, I am fed. DS.

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Heroes

 

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Last evening the “Women in Waiting” workshop series began with a friendly but rough start. People were stressed from difficult lives of juggling children, jobs, court cases and memories. A couple arrived late and some were no shows – or so we thought.

The contemplation part got off to a belated start with a rushed quiet time. We listened to some soft Taize music and breathed or not breathed, as was our need. I gave them the heads up that the instrumental piece was 5 minutes long. It was a good way to re-orient us from our busy lives and the long commute to get there. Amidst sisterly annoyance, hugs and ‘no you’re not late’, joie de vivre begins.

Much of the contemplation time was taken up by telling the stories of women. We imagined ourselves into the life story of Mary the mother of Jesus. She was a devout Jew. Her life was difficult too. We recognized her courage in telling the angel that she would willingly bear God’s Son. She found comfort in her visit with Elizabeth who was pregnant miraculously in her old age (as prophesied). We talked of her feelings atop that donkey at almost 9 months pregnant and finding no place to give birth right away. We see her mystified when Jesus at 12 years old teaches in the synagogue. Her grief was discussed when she was present at the cross and the strangeness and joy she must have experienced at the resurrection. We recalled that Jesus had asked John to look after her.

The conversation progressed to a recognizing of more modern heroes: Malala, Queen Elizabeth II, Gabby Giffords. The name of Anne Frank was raised and a World War II personal family story was told. I thought of Corrie Ten Boom, Teresa of Calcutta, and Teresa of Avila, Julianna of Norwich, Kim Campbell, Adrienne Clark, Alison Redford… All were women with feet of clay – some celebrated, some not so much. Our desire as women of seemingly ordinary lives is to live well, to flourish, and to be heroes if only of our own stories.

The evening continued with more people arriving and being let in on stories and instructions. The ideas of saints and collagists and the era of Dadaism filled the excited air. Our times too are filled with uncertainty and turmoil. Some have life decisions in the hands of judges, of doctors and of counselors – and some of God (if not all).

We collaged women and shadows, text and flowers, colour, paper, images all a seamless mash-up of art mixed with life. Once there, no one wanted to leave. As I drove home tired and happy they chatted in the halls and dark driveway of the church. A Dieu dear ones – until next week.