In conjunction with our annual Exhibition & Program Series, PPL offers a Creative Fellowship for a Rhode Island artist who creates new work incorporating imagery from or inspired by the library’s Special Collections. Our 2017 Creative Fellow, Keri King, is a fantastic Providence-based artist who creates collage and illustration-based work. Keri has been researching in Special Collections and in our historical magazine collections for several months; below is the first of two guest blog posts showcasing Keri’s creative process!
In my work, I like to blend drawing and collage. I incorporate a lot of source imagery from magazines, newspaper clippings, vintage posters, and such, into each piece. I enjoy how each cut-out element has its own history and adds to an overall narrative with tonal/ textural results.
Research is an essential part of my work flow! For most projects, my process is as follows:
- I sketch.
- I draft what I like to call my “grocery list” (figuring out what source images I need) & site “shopping centers” (where I can find those images).
- I research (I look, I tab, I get a little off track while exploring, I check things out from the library…)
- I play with a xerox machine.
- I collage.
- And I’m back to drawing, synthesizing the varied materials within a collage into one cohesive image.
My process is slightly different for the Creative Fellowship at the library, where I’m creating an 8 foot x 8 foot mural that will be displayed inside the Empire Street entrance to the library. I’ve proposed a collage illustration of a dinner party, with families from a handful of time periods in America coming around a table to eat.
One distinction from my usual research process is that I can’t just pull things off the shelves in Special Collections. Instead, I use the library’s “human Google”: I tell Angela, the Curatorial Assistant, what I’m looking for, and she pulls books and magazines from the stacks for me, which I then look at in the Reading Room. (I got a tour of Special Collections at the beginning of my fellowship, so I have some idea of the frankly magical wealth of resources that are available to me.)
The stuff that Angela finds is always much more than what I bargained for. She thinks of sources I wouldn’t ever have on my radar, and these unexpected shares lead to new, playful connections in my work. My process is energized by our collaborative research.
Since the summer, I’ve looked at all kinds of things, including:
-images of food and characters
-images of locations that could provide a backdrop
I’m leaning towards an alfresco backdrop, and I’ve been focusing on outdoor locations in Rhode Island.
One day I went picnic table shopping.
-advertising from old home magazines
I’m fascinated with food advertising from the 1940s into the 1950s, much of which is not very appetizing. I particularly love this savory tomato aspic gelatin. I’m exploring the possibility of a savory aspic hostess.
Because Special Collections materials are often fragile, I can’t Xerox them, so I’ve been working with high-resolution scans and photographs. Right now I’m in my collage and drawing phase.
Keri’s mural will be unveiled on March 1st at the opening event for our 2017 Exhibition and Program Series. Stop by any time between then and June 30th to see the final results of Keri’s work. She’ll also be giving an artist’s talk at the library on April 30th–mark your calendars!