Aug 1, 2023
Unique analog collage displays manifesting as one collective dreamscape
The older I get, the more I appreciate art that makes me think in a really outside-the-box way and doesn’t lay it all out for me. While I enjoyed that when I was younger, today I appreciate the mystery and curiosity behind exploring every little detail. I have more life experiences under my nails from which to draw my deeper conclusions and find hidden meaning and interpretation. I appreciated that when I came across the artwork of North Alabama analog collage creative Taryn Chase Jackson.
Jackson is no stranger to the creative world. As a child, she was unexplainably drawn to things visually without really knowing or being able to express why. Today, she knows and expresses it a lot over the canvas with her unique analog collage displays of mixed media and assemblage. Her work is nostalgic, full of vision manifesting as one collective dreamscape.
Having always identified as a creative person, she currently spends her time as a creative writer, a grant writer, a singer, and an analog collage artist. Her genuine love for her visual craft is seen in the fine detail of her artwork, which is carefully pieced together with intention. It’s easy to get lost in exploring her creations, searching for your own message. It’s harder to pull yourself away from the stories and thoughts those creations inspire.
Born and raised in New York, Jackson has lived in Virginia and North Carolina, and she now lives in Alabama. In high school, her work was published in the local newspaper and won a Tri-County Arts Council’s Scholastic Gold Key Award for Art. Since then, Jackson has completed a visual art concentration as part of her bachelor’s degree, and she also holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in creative non-fiction writing.
While in high school and college, Jackson says she took a variety of drawing and painting classes and even won some awards, but ultimately, she didn’t love those mediums and struggled to recognize what she did for fun as “real art.” In fact, it wasn’t until she moved to the Muscle Shoals area and joined a group of artists that she became more serious about pursuing collage as a medium.
As an analog collage artist, Jackson says she doesn’t design or edit anything digitally.
“Everything you see in my work is made of paper I cut by hand and glued down. … My process is less conceptual and more driven by using found images. Personally, I’m overwhelmed by the idea of having literally every image at my fingertips and being able to resize or manipulate them however I wish.”
She further elaborates that she prefers the randomness and synchronicity of putting images together in a way that seems natural, and I have to say, I can understand that. Reject the mainstream, forge your own way. We hear that, Taryn. We hear that.
Jackson enjoys living creatively and avoids specializing, feeling it’s best not to limit yourself as an artist by sticking with one category or genre. Instead, she says, we could be, “exploring, blending, and creating new categories/genres that may not even exist.” She genuinely enjoys making the world a much more aesthetically pleasing place to experience, and that shines through in each of her visual efforts.
Recently, I had the chance to chat with Taryn about her life in the arts, her preferred medium, and her artistic processes. Check out our conversation below!
MaM: Taryn, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with Mixed Alternative. Please tell us about yourself.
TCJ: This is an intimidating question, so here are a dozen phrases that collectively describe me: I’m a creative, grant writer, wife, bonus mom, dog mom, Gen-Xer, double Gemini, bisexual, pagan, elder goth, compulsive collector, and maximalist.
MaM: That’s a mouthful, but I like it! When did art come into your life?
TCJ: I went to parochial school (essentially being home schooled at church) through the 7th grade, so I didn’t get basic art education until I switched to public school. But I loved cutting up magazines growing up and would save bits of paper or candy wrappers for no reason other than I liked the color or texture.
Later, my high school friends and I started a photocopied zine that relied heavily on collage. We also decorated FBs (also known as Friendship Books) with what were basically miniature mixed media ads that we mailed to pen pals to find other fans of new wave and alternative music—obviously, this was pre-Internet! (laughs)
I eventually took a variety of drawing and painting classes through high school and undergrad … but I didn’t love those mediums, and of course, I never recognized what I did for fun as “real art.” It actually wasn’t until I joined a group of artists in the Shoals that I became more serious about pursuing collage as a medium.
MaM: What has your life as an artist been like?
TCJ: I've always identified as a creative person. … The term “artist” is so loaded. Many people narrowly define the term as one for just visual artists or for people who make a living from their work. But creating in the context of a capitalist culture means that we have to unlearn the myths we’re taught and then be brave enough to define our work and its value for ourselves.
MaM: Who has been your biggest artistic influence?
TCJ: That’s a tough question! Years ago, I probably couldn’t have named a single 2-D collage artist, but I do remember the exact moment I discovered the work of Joseph Cornell, who pioneered the assemblage. And I always felt a kinship with the Surrealists, with René Magritte and Man Ray among my favorites. I suppose there is a parallel in the way they bring disparate, familiar things together to form a cohesive whole that surprises and delights.
MaM: How did you find your art style?
TCJ: “Style" is one of the great mysteries, I think. Art teachers can really only introduce you to basic skills and concepts, to artists who have led the way, and give you a forum to experiment—but developing your personal taste and style is a process you have to do on your own, intuitively. You build on what works and throw out what doesn’t, and eventually other people will claim that they can recognize your work without seeing your name. But I personally think everyone’s style should be evolving all the time.
MaM: While you’re making a piece, what goes through your head?
TCJ: I’ve learned that I work best if I think in terms of a series or a theme because it keeps me coming back. For example, in 2019, I started a project based on the 22 cards of the Tarot deck called the Major Arcana. Each card represents an archetype or symbolic meaning, so I tried to find images that resonated with the particular card I was working on that day, then piece them together in a way that made sense to me.
It’s almost like putting together a puzzle, except one where you've lost the box that had the final image on the cover, and you have to figure it out. So, sometimes I start with a concept or a feeling, and other times I pull a couple of core images I’m drawn to and see what else might complement or play off of them. I’m often surprised by the final result, and that’s part of the joy.
MaM: Some of your collages are whimsical and some are more serious. What affects your art process when you’re making art?
TCJ: Maybe it’s the Gemini in me, but I do often combine images that seem opposed—the sweet and the dark, the safe and the dangerous—leaving the viewer to wrestle with their own associations and, ultimately, assign their own meaning to the composition. Sometimes my pieces start with a theme or a word/phrase that I focus on to select images and create a vibe. Sometimes I have so much fun playing with different compositions that it’s hard to commit to the final layout. But ultimately, I know I’m on the right path if I can amuse myself at some point. Not every attempt is a masterpiece, but you always learn something in the process.
MaM: In what ways is creating healing for you?
TCJ: Creating is the ultimate form of healing, because in the process we’re returning (or attempting to return) to our true selves—the person we were as a child, when we were unabashedly curious and self-accepting, before all the self-doubt and people-pleasing that comes with maturity. If we can successfully tap into that core while we’re creating, we’re headed in the right direction.
MaM: Are you frequently involved with local art shows? When and where?
TCJ: Since I started submitting my work to exhibitions in 2020, I’ve been fortunate enough to be included in several juried shows at the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art and the Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts here in the Shoals—as well as at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center in Decatur, AL; Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL; and even the Arc Gallery in San Francisco, CA.
Dates for my current shows are as follows:
· “ArtWorks" 2023 Member Exhibition at the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art, Tuscumbia, AL (July 22-Aug. 12, 2023)
· “Making Waves: Waterscapes in Art” 2023 Online Juried Exhibition by Southern Tier Center for Emerging Artists, Jamestown, NY (Aug. 1-31, 2023)
· "Myth in Form” Alabama Women's Caucus for Art (ALWCA) Juried Exhibition, Carnegie Visual Arts Center, Decatur, AL (Sept. 29-Nov. 4, 2023)
MaM: Any advice for other artists out there (interested in mixed-media collage)?
TCJ: Fortunately, collage is an extremely accessible medium: If you have paper and glue, you can do it. You don’t even need scissors—just tear it! If you supplement it with paint or markers, you have mixed media. Make it 3-D by adding found objects, and you have assemblage.
Unfortunately, the idea that anyone can do it is part of the reason some people think it doesn’t belong in the world of "Fine Art.” Historically collage was also something more women did than men, so of course, that counted against it as well.
But my advice to those interested is to a.) ignore the gatekeepers, and b.) get familiar with collage artists—historical and contemporary—to figure out which styles you like (or don’t). Follow the collage community on Instagram and subscribe to Kolaj Magazine or other publications that include collage. Imitate one technique and then another. Make a piece based on a particular song or a piece that someone you care about might enjoy. Let yourself get weird.
With all creative work, every single person—even those with decades of experience—has to start with a blank page. So, the most valuable skill you can develop is figuring out the best way to trick your own brain into creating. For example, if you make excuses about not having time, tell yourself you’ll only work for 15 minutes. If you feel self-conscious, just tell yourself you’re just going to test a new method or technique—anything that lowers the stakes. Of course, then you have to resist the urge to judge, stay curious, and come back and do it all again.
*Cover photo "Liminal Spaces" is courtesy of Taryn Chase Jackson.
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