Reflections of a Teenage Dream
I first began to collage as a young teen, around the same time I began to study and read the Tarot. Now this was back in the 80’s so the photos used were ones developed with actual film, which means days, sometimes weeks would go by before I ever saw the end result of my attempt to capture the moment. There was no instant gratification and no way of knowing if the one you took was even going to turn out (unless you had a crappy Polaroid). You took one picture at a time, crossed your fingers, and prayed to the Photo Gods because you only got a total of 24 chances in a single roll of film. This made capturing raw moments much more random and rare than nowadays.
I found that thick poster paper or plain cardboard worked best as the base for my collage work. Before beginning I would take several minutes to gaze at the blank ‘canvas’ like I did before painting with my watercolors, imagining it as a smooth pond, knowing that the first photo (like the first stroke of the brush) would be the pebble that I tossed. Each photo would in someway be connected to others on a deeply spiritual level. I chose the images randomly from a big heap collected over months. I had no set intention, I just placed them where I felt they belonged. Even the shapes were cut haphazardly, notched and imperfect, just like the volatile teen I felt I was. Little did I know that those images were telling a story that only my subconscious was aware of at the time.
The collages were never intended to be anything fancy, just scissors and glue, time alone, raw teenage emotion, and an LP record playing loudly in the background. These pieces of memory held together by glue encompassed an abstract view of my emotional world at that time in a way that I was unable to do with words written in journals. I look at my old collages now and my mind reaches far beyond that moment suspended in time. Each snapshot intertwines with the other, which connects to another, and so on until the memories blend and I am transported back to a time that is not a time, and to a place that is not a place. It is from there that I can finally see the big picture clearly through my soul’s eyes.
Collage was my form of therapy during those difficult, sometimes unbearable teenage years. The end result displayed the jagged pieces of my world and I didn’t scrutinize or over think their lack of beauty, depth, or importance like I did with every other aspect of myself. They just became what they were.
I continued to do collage on and off and in between the changing times during those years as a rebellious runaway, a pregnancy and the choices to be made as a result, drug use, an abusive boyfriend, life in a crisis group home for girls, a stint in juvenile hall, hopelessly pining away for a first love, friends in rehab, and friends who decided to check out of life before their time. But there were also smiles, laughter, friendship, excitement, celebration, silliness, remnants of childhood wonder, magic, dreams, unconditional love, and hope for the future. When each collage was completed it would take up space on my bedroom wall to be displayed with the others that mingled with band posters, ticket stubs, and theme park souvenirs.
In my very first collage there’s trimmed snapshots of me and my horse, a couple of boyfriends, me nose to nose with my poodle, friends at the beach, a birthday wish, friends who partied, a trip to Hawaii, and another trip to an amusement park, and my dear friend R. holding the litter of puppies shortly before she decided to end her own life.
This collage may seem like nothing more than a collection of mishmash haphazardly thrown together but it actually weaves together the private story of a 3 month period of my life very well, saying so much without any words at all. The jumble is a language that is all my own, each experience deeply affecting me, and each event directly relating to the other.
Although I’ve decided to publicly share a little piece of my past, the emotional soul attachment is still privately mine because only I can connect the experiences of my feelings as they relate to the intricate web of my personal journey. That’s the beauty of collage, and even more so, the beauty of our individual memories.
What are some of the ways you have expressed yourself or chronicled events during times of joy, or difficulty? How do you honor or cherish your memories?
Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(