Full of edges and corners, the collages of C. R. Resetarits are fun and lively scenes. Looking at the big picture you might miss the small details, surprises waiting between the lines. Look too closely and you might miss the cohesion of the whole, the impulse that wants us to enjoy what we see and be happy. Art Editor Morgan Fox interviewed C. R. on the construction of her art.
Morgan Fox: Could you talk a little about your process? What goes into making a collage for you?
C. R. Resetarits: Magic. Starts visual and stays there — in a different way than writing, where there is visualization but more internal, mindful. Collaging starts outside me and largely stays there. I think that is why I find it relaxing and playful. Sometimes I start with an image made by someone else that gives me an idea, maybe I want to reinterpret or object or just talk to it. Other times I start with some found image that I want to hold on to and build a little world or room around.
MF: Are there particular themes that you’re drawn to?
CRR: Not too consciously. I might get an idea or theme for a run of collages but when they’re finished I’m ready for something very different.
MF: You’re also a writer. Does your writing ever inspire your artwork, and vice versa?
CRR: Maybe the poetry. I like small, tight poems and I feel there is something like that working on my collages too. My work is usually small so I can scan it. I like the scale. Fits me. An example of necessity as the mother of invention. I have started to find a few poems, or maybe just poetic jests, in images lately, so maybe something more symbiotic will develop between words and images but I’d hate for my images to be too verbal. Nonverbal communication and gesture should be their main point.
MF: You mentioned that you used to rehab houses. I also used to be a carpenter, but I left the trade because I wasn’t artistically satisfied. However, it seems like there’s more of an overlap in your collages with the physical aspect of construction. Could you talk a little about this interplay between construction and art?
CRR: Sure. For years I worked mornings on writing and afternoons on plaster, tile, painting, carpentry. So I’ve been conditioned to have both the mindful and the physical as part of my day (yes I know physical work is mindful but differently so). I always loved the staging part of rehabbing and resale. That’s where you can tell the story of how to live in a house. I would cruise neighborhoods for discards and redo furniture for staging. What to put on the walls became a task. So I went to resale shops and bought art. Had to be under $15.00 and had to be paint on canvas. You can’t buy a canvas that cheap but you can buy discard, cleared-out-grandma’s-house art for that cheap. Then I would add images or colors or whatever. I’d built something on top of or through the old image. Watercolor tissue was one of my favorite things. The whole process broke me of feeling too reverent about art. Sometimes a canvas is just a canvas and an old image is ready to evolve.
MF: I appreciated in your bio that you live in “Faulkner-riddled Oxford, Mississippi.” Do you find that living in a place steeped with that kind of literary history affects your writing or artwork, whether accidental or a conscious incorporation or push against that tradition?
CRR: Mostly it attracts a lot of other artists and that is probably the biggest plus and influence. I adore Faulkner though and since my daughter calls most of my art “creepy,” maybe I’ve acquired an appreciation of the Gothic from him.
MF: One of the things we really loved in your collages was the human figures in the middle of this manipulated landscape, particularly in “House Built for Three” and “Blue 2,” and it really feels like viewers are invited to create their own narratives for the pieces. Do narratives play a role for you in creating artwork? Or how do you see yourself in conversation with the viewer?
CRR: Yes to narrative but only late in the game. At first it is just about visual interests or sometimes a process. I play and build and look for something visually evocative, then comes the narrative bit. I guess by the end there is nearly always a narrative, a world, and a world needs an animal or human to translate, enliven. And then I can let it go. But I do like a figure in a collage. Instant story just from the look and posture.
MF: What kinds of projects do you have coming up?
CRR: There’s this box, well two boxes, in my work room. One box is pictures from sundry print sources and one is photos. And there’s also a box of scraps from other projects. And a few notebooks. I only work a couple hours a day on art, after the not-writing-well-enough morning, as a wind down to the futility of all that. I look at books and magazines, I cut out things, I doodle. I try not to think. Then I throw whatever in one of the boxes and forget about it for a while. Then I work on one of the collages that I have growing in some warm, dark corner of my workroom. I try to give them time to develop, and often I’m forced to let the paint dry. I finished off a bunch of nascent collages recently and haven’t started anything new in a while. Soon, I’m going to clear and clean my work space and open up all of those boxes and notebooks. Something will happen. It might be horrid but it’ll be something. Right now, though, I haven’t a clue. Like I said. Magic.
C. R. Resetarits C. R. Resetarits is a writer and visual artist. She has new writing in Southern Humanities Review, North Dakota Quarterly, and Native Voices: Indigenous American Poetry, Craft and Conversations (Tupelo Press). Her collages have appeared recently in the pages and on the covers of several dozen literary magazines.