Travel Agent 

Collage artist constructs alluring locales out of gouache and photographic scraps

Collage artist constructs alluring locales out of gouache and photographic scraps

Arless Day Collages

Through May 6

Leu Gallery at Belmont University’s Lila D. Bunch Library

Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sat.; 2-5 p.m. Sun.

Exhibit is open noon-4:30 p.m. Apr. 22 and closed Apr. 23

For information, call 460-6770

Collage is a medium, like watercolor, in which even the most artistically challenged among us has dabbled. Just as we all applied water-soluble paints to paper when we were children, so we once took safety scissors and pots of non-toxic paste in hand and selected images from magazines to cut and fit together into a collage to be proudly displayed upon the refrigerator door. Arless Day’s collages demonstrate how highly evolved that cut-and-paste process can become when more sophisticated materials and a trained artist’s eye and hand are applied to the medium.

Day was born in Baton Rouge, La., but has lived in rural South Carolina for many years. His Deep South breeding shows in the exotic architectural images and lush, semi-tropical foliage he selects for use in his densely detailed, jewel-toned collages of landscapes and interiors that exist nowhere but in the artist’s own mind. To create these collages, he begins with a single image—a lighthouse, a flamingo, a vase of calla lilies—that propels him into a fantasy landscape or room. ”My vision comes from turning the pages of a book or magazine and finding something on which I can build an environment,“ Day says of his process. He then begins searching for other images that help him build his world.

In ”Dewees Island,“ for example, the artist constructs a wetlands environment around a grouping of white cranes. So carefully does Day select and arrange the photographic bits and pieces of foliage, water, and sky that the result is almost more painting than collage. Day adds to that illusion by painting over the construction with gouache. ”Everything pulls together, and these colors [in the paint] make the image feel more alive than if you see it without the paint,“ he says.

The final step for Day is to apply a clear acrylic coating that unites the elements of each collage under a high-gloss finish. Besides the wetlands scene, Day creates landscapes that are Caribbean, Italian, and Floridian in feeling, if not in strict reality. Each is composed of dozens or even hundreds of pieces of photographic images cut or torn from some print medium and pasted with a wax adhesive to board.

Day uses the same meticulous process to create interior scenes. In ”After the Ride,“ the artist uses a pair of riding boots and a hat as the elements around which to fashion an elegant but comfortable room that mixes Spanish architectural touches with tropical plants and chandeliers. In several works, Day focuses on a single piece of furniture—a grandfather clock or an antique chair—and interprets it in almost a portrait format.

”The Designer’s Chair,“ for instance, explores the formal character of a richly upholstered side chair, while ”The Golden Chair“ offers a study in solid comfort in its portrait of an overstuffed easy chair. Like Day’s detailed landscapes, however, these more streamlined collages are also assembled from bits and pieces of paper clipped from magazines, books, and calendars. Often, Day allows stray lines of text from those printed materials to remain in his imagined scenarios. He also sometimes adds texture and a sense of age by scratching and scoring the surface of his collages.

Though the artist admits he has never been to many of the exotic locales glimpsed in the photographic illustrations he collects, clips, and arranges, his imagined environments convey an emotional, if not physical, reality. Not quite surreal and not exactly dreamlike—but certainly not wholly factual—Day’s scenes of the coastal marshlands of the American South, the crystal waters of a Caribbean harbor, and the sun-drenched hillsides of Italy offer a visual experience that is a world apart.


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