This morning, Peter Jacobs rolled out of bed, poured himself a cup of coffee and reached into his leather shoulder bag for an X-Acto knife, some glue, a 9-x-12 inch self-healing matt and a 12-page Strathmore watercolor pad. He retrieved his copy of The New York Times from his front porch, and sat down at his kitchen table where he spent the next two hours creating a collage from the newspaper.
This is exactly what Jacobs did yesterday, and it’s what he will do tomorrow. In fact, Jacobs has basically adhered to this routine for the past 3,663 mornings in a row (and counting). Since that first morning, Jacobs has filled 308 Strathmore books, and has gone through 342 X-Acto blades and 374 acid-free glue sticks.
Each morning he scans the newspaper for inspiration. He might slice 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.
The Hunterdon Art Museum will celebrate Jacobs’s work with an exhibition titled “The Collage Journal: The First Decade” which runs from May 17 to Sept. 6. The opening reception is Sunday, May 17 from 2 to 4 p.m. and includes a gallery talk by Jacobs and refreshments. Everyone is welcome.
The collages are paintings with paper, theatrical stages of abstracted color and rhythms, layers that imbue surreal narratives, symbolism hidden in humor, social commentary, cultural irony and pure visual perception, Jacobs said.
“The Collage Journal is integrated into my daily life as a meditation, contemplation and daily source of creative expression,” Jacobs noted.
Jacobs’s first step in this decades-long journey began on March 31, 2005. He was enjoying breakfast and reading The New York Times with his wife, Elizabeth, a sculptor. They were discussing the importance of discipline in making art and about finding projects that have weight, when Elizabeth suggested they create some art each day.
Jacobs had worked with collage for 35 years and wondered where in his daily life he could go for inspiration. He found the answer right at his fingertips.
“I rarely have a predetermined concept based on the news, nor an end result in mind from the start, Jacobs said. “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 and stories — and extract them. I continue to construct and deconstruct layers through a visual dialogue. Overall, it is a very intuitive process.”
No matter the circumstances, Jacobs has toiled steadily at his work. When his wife needed surgery, Jacobs brought his tools and worked at his wife’s bedside. The notion of taking a cruise almost brought shudders as he worried about having access to a daily newspaper.
Through the years, Jacobs’s work evolved into a “poetic narrative,” as he drew a deeper appreciation for the purity of art and its mysterious qualities. But whatever changes occur, the creative process has remained constant. Jacobs equates his work to “a puzzle (in which) I try to create a different ending to each time. When I start each collage, I have no idea where I’m going to end up. . . That, to me, means I’m never compromising.”
The exhibition’s title “The Collage Journal: The First Decade” offers the clearest clue about Jacobs’s future plans. “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,” he said.
The Collage Journal: