A series of family workshops with artist and educator Nzuji De Magalhaes were held on November 8th and November 21st. Participants created still lifes and landscapes using paper and everyday materials, recreated iconic paintings and photographs using collage and mixed-media art, and learned about collage artists such as Romare Bearden and Wangechi Mutu.
Look out for forthcoming workshops with Nzuji in the new year.
Compound: What is your approach to the collage project A Piece of Memory?
Nzuji De Magalhaes: The theme is remembrance. We will be adding items to the work that create a certain connection between art and artist. Every object has its own value and recognizable moment. Which value will the added item have for the creator?
C: What do you hope visitors will take away from this project?
NM: My hope is that this project gives guests a chance to freely express, interpret, and communicate their ideas in a visual, constructive way. Also, it will show that collage is not a craft used to embellish, but rather it is a medium that resembles pieces of memory that are attached within all of us.
C: What can you share regarding your own early collage work?
NM: My favorite collage work was the first piece I created, of a young girl sitting on an ottoman waiting for mom to brush her hair. This work was reminiscent of my own moments with my mother. Adding layers and layers of yarn onto the canvas reminded me of the intimate, soft, and warm moment between my mother and me. It became an event of learning and growth for both of us.
C: What are you presently working on in the studio?
NM: I am working on large pieces relating to Black African American hair with an emphasis in freeing it from Westernization and colonial suppression.
C: What are the challenges of art making in light of the pandemic?
NM: Cabin fever, going through Zoom fatigue, and lack of social interaction are challenges that I face. I often find ways to get away from the confinement by walking around the neighborhood and the park. That gives me a moment to reflect, to then open my mind to express and create my work.
C: What are you reading/listening to?
NM: I am attending various webinars relating to racial inequality and superiority suppression. As a recent speaker for the Textile of America Symposium, I researched different West African fabrics and their spiritual, cultural, societal, and communal importance. The fabrics that have migrated into Western societies have been transformed into objects that illustrate Black exotic beauty. By looking at works by April Bey, Bisa Butler, and Kehinde Wiley, and reading their approach of the same, I have begun to explore in my work the idea of pushing the envelope and identifying the measures used to change the Western notion of Black exotic beauty to the cultural notion within African textiles. This collage project invites guests of every age and background to participate in the making of an expressive and decorative art piece.
NM: Collage had its humble beginnings in the craft category, used mostly to wrap, shield, and protect other objects from being damaged. Through the years artists have noticed the significance of collage as a medium for expressing individuality, community, and history. Many artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Wangechi Mutu, and Mark Bradford have been recognized for their creative nuances.
Collage is now an art form that engages expressive and impressive ideas. With the use of construction paper, newspaper, fabric, scissors, glue, and other materials, this project will give participants a chance to interpret and gain the freedom to communicate their ideas in a visual, constructive manner.