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Camera and Collage exhibit captures essence of Art.Downtown.

Documentation of "Camera and Collage Show" at Sanctuary Gallery for Art.Downtown.
"When Life Hands You Chaos" by Alexandra Johnson

"When Life Hands You Chaos" by Alexandra Johnson /Sanctuary Art/Tom Duimstra

Underwriting support from:


Sanctuary Gallery

140 South Division SE

Clint Griffin Sculpture

Clint Griffin Sculpture /Sanctuary Art/Tom Duimstra

Tom Duimstra Sculpture

Tom Duimstra Sculpture /Sanctuary Art/Tom Duimstra


Collage can be characterized by bringing together elements that are borrowed and original to create a unique work of art unto itself. This concept can be applied when curating a group art show: the disparate styles and elements patched together to make a whole, where the sum is more than likely greater than the sum of its parts.

Curator Tom Duimstra, with 25 years of experience in the Grand Rapids art world, knew that he simply wanted to curate a show that focused on collage and photography as the basis for the group show he curated at Sanctuary Gallery (140 S. Division SW) during Art.Downtown. on April 12. The show features seasoned gallery veterans and up and coming new comers, and runs until Friday April 26.

The art on display is a reflection of Duimstra’s own work; block sculptures/collages that have a skewered geometric warped beauty all their own. Artist David Warmenhoeven says he was inspired by Duimstra’s style and wanted to pay homage to him for this show.

“We have collaborated on stuff for years and I wanted to kind of emulate his style as a tribute,” he says. The result are found objects such as the front of a drawer, layered in with photograph images, some of them dating back to 1986, held in place by a layer of fiberglass holding the moment in time. The effect is a poignant one in regard to thinking of the haphazard ways we try to hold memories in place, unmoving, untarnished and fixed in place.

Warmenhoeven’s collages were juxtaposed with the abstract, multilayered and textured photographs by Stafford Smith. Images lay upon images upon images and the spectral quality of the images lends itself to the elusive quality of memory and the levels of experience, how perceptions can shift and merge with a fluidity that is always beyond our grasp. A similar feeling of reconstruction of a broken past was evoked from the torn and almost juvenilely stitched together objects of Clint Griffin. 

Bruce Cutean’s self described ‘goofy’ collages, the works betrayed a depth beyond the Creature from the Black Lagoon and other B-movie sci-fi kitsch might suggest gave the show a more playful side and Michael Willis’ stark, black and white photos some touches of realism. A photo of an elderly woman, the shadows of the lines in her face like a film noir issue of National Geographic.

The intricate and sophisticated ornamentation in the collages “Adele” and “Curious Fruit” by Tamara Fox displayed a depth of thought and craftsmanship that mirrors her dense and thought provoking writing. Fox gave some details about the contents of the two collages.

“’Adele’ is made from an old notepad box that had faded in a manner that I found interesting--since the original image, Gustav Klimt's 'Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer' is primarily yellow/gold, but the faded areas had turned kind of mauve. The piece also includes a fragment from a billboard poster, vintage German die-cut stars, probably made to decorate Christmas ornaments, and a spritz of gold paint,” she says.

For “Curious Fruit” Fox says she was inspired by Spring.

“I liked the idea of making something inspired by spring. The female figure is a black and white reproduction of a Lucas Cranach's painting 'Venus' (1532), which I found in an old art history textbook. There is something quaint and slightly awkward about Cranach's nudes, which I like. I was thinking about her acting as a personification of spring, since she appears almost like an adolescent,” she explains.

Photographer Claire Lea described her photograph slide show "untouched" as being a “celebration of using the camera and light.” Lea’s slides of a dancer clad in a red dress had a simple, but compelling dynamic; a “Visual Ballet” of movement inherent in the still image, one of the great illusions of sculpture.

“I want to capture movement and motion; beauty and grace. Modern Life seems to be an increasingly continuous blur, we need to slow down and see the beauty,” Lea says.

Perhaps the show's most directly emotional pieces were the collages entitled “When Life Hands You Chaos” by Alexandra Johnson. A series of five collages detailing the story of a recent family ordeal were palatable in their depiction of the effects of psychological and emotional pain.

“I wasn’t blessed with the best of coping skills, I turned to unhealthy ways to endure the pain I was living with. So I wanted this series to really be an opportunity for the viewer to think about when life has handed them stressors how do they handle it? Is it positive or negative? What is it that they have been through? Whether it be cancer like with my grandpa, or something else, there is always those trying times that test one's core. I just want to open my viewer’s eyes and have them think about how they deal with life,” Johnson says.

Johnson is grateful for the opportunity to show her work in such a major event as Art.Downtown. and to work with a curator as experienced as Duimstra.

“I’m so excited to be able to have the opportunity to be an artist in GR; I’m so thankful to be able to love the work that I do. Grand Rapids has helped build me as a person, and has helped me flourish,” she says.

“Camera and Collage” is a fine cross section of the multitude of talent in Grand Rapids. The closing night for the show is this Friday, April 26.


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