Every day for the past 10 years, artist Peter Jacobs has created a collage from The New York Times. He scans the newspaper for inspiration, slicing out sections of pattern or color. Or, waving his knife like a magic wand, he’ll make a face, object or gesture disappear from a photo. He’ll attach the pieces onto the pad, and rearrange them to his satisfaction before the glue hardens. We recently caught up with the artist, and you can read excerpts from that interview below.
The Hunterdon Art Museum celebrates Jacobs’s work with an exhibition titled “The Collage Journal: The First Decade” which runs until Sept. 6.
Q: What inspired you to create collages using The New York Times? I watched the NJ Arts Video so I know you and your wife were talking about doing a daily project and that you were comfortable with collage, but what inspired this?
Peter: My wife did come up with the concept of us both doing a daily practice of art-making. I was sitting at the breakfast table reading the New York Times and starting cutting and pasting that day’ s paper and haven’t stopped since. My great discontent with politics, disregard of the environment and division of the country was a catalyst for beginning The Collage Journal. I like using the Times because not only does it embody the imagery of the news (history), but it also is a visual vehicle of popular culture (advertising).The collages started out with literal narratives, identifiable imagery and social commentary, but transformed through time to painterly, poetic and obscured imagery.
I choose the medium of collage, because I have been a collagist for 35 years and it is a visual language I am very comfortable with.
Q: Does the news in that day’s paper affect your project, and if so how? Do you decide what you’re going to create after going through the paper or do you have some idea beforehand of what you want to do?
A: I rarely have a predetermined concept based on the news, nor an end result in mind from the start. Generally, there is a stew of what I am visually awakened by, my feelings of the moment and subconsciously, the news. I initially respond to certain elements from the newspaper (colors, textures, architecture, stories, etc) and extract them. I continue to construct and deconstruct layers through a visual dialogue. Overall, it is a very intuitive process.
Q: When you started this project did you expect to be doing it for 10 years? What keeps you going?
A: I never had expectations from the start. My intention was to have a daily practice and suddenly I have completed a 12 page book. I think a habit starts at 21 days. This is one of my better habits. I like the discipline and artistic evolution while marking time.
Q: Have your collages changed over the years? If so, how?
A: They started out with more of a literal narrative. Over the last number of years I explore different ways of handling space, color and the narrative. I try to transform what I extract from the newspaper. I do not wish the viewer to recognize the New York Times as the palette in my collage work.
A: I hope that each viewer finds their own story from each collage, has some emotional response, and enjoys the perceptual puns.
Q: What are your future plans for this project? Do you hope to go another 20 years?
A: No one knows what the future will bring, but I will continue to bring a new work into each day as long as the New York Times delivers newspapers.
Q: How did you decide which works to include in this exhibition?
A: I decided for this 10 year retrospective to include 12 works from each year. The 12 works were specifically not one from each month, but meant to symbolize the 12 months per year and 12 pages in each of the books I do them in (120 in total). The ones I specifically choose were works I considered to be good examples of trends of each year.
They worked in their groups well and like the process in how I created them, I trusted my intuition in their selections.
The accompanying exhibition catalog will have the complete 120 collages in it and an essay by Eric Levin. The 28 page catalog will be available at the museum for $5 each. They should be arriving there the middle of next week.
(Images are all from The Collage Journal: 12-23-2013; 12-29-2011; 3-9-2012.)