The Weight Of Things, 2019
Introducing Kim Triedman, Arlington, MA Collagist
Congrats to Kim Triedman for landing a /DRI:M/SPACE interview for her collage “Misogyny”. Kim submitted a few stand-out pieces, in fact, that fit the theme perfectly—here’s the brief for those who missed the open-call details.
Dissect the male gaze
Investigate the female gaze
Push back against the Patriarchy
Challenge the status quo
/DRI:M/ARTZ: Can you tell us about your collage “Misogyny”? I noticed you tagged this collage for @knightsclive on the theme of “Resisting the Earth’s Pull”. Can you also expand on how the two themes overlap for you?
Kim Triedman: This piece works for me on so many levels. If you start with the figure on the left, which is where I started, you’re immediately drawn to the softness of the female form, how it seems to almost float in the air, and how the curve of her body represents a kind of freedom and the beauty of that freedom, but also, from a different perspective, a kind of chaos. The chaos of curve (inspired by Kim's poem "Life Was Easier as a Square—"), as I like to think about it—something ungovernable, uncontrollable, something beyond what is acceptable. And so then, of course, you have the men to the right (the male gaze) representing this different perspective, the need to rein in the chaos—their guns, the harshness of their angles, the darkness of their amassed form, even the mathematical equations scribbled in the background, all representing the need to control, to pin down. The call to order. So I think this piece does justice to both themes: on the one hand, the (feminine) resistance to the earth’s pull; on the other, the male need to contain and to control.
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Off Book, 2020 / Meat, 2021 / Sinners All, 2020
DA: You are a fellow New Englander. We lived in Burlington, Vermont, for 12 years. I miss the change of seasons (but not the bitter cold!), the fresh air, the farmers markets, the overall vibe! Can you tell us about your hometown—Arlington, Massachusetts? Were you born and bred there? What’s the arts & culture scene and is there a community of collagist artists?
KT: I was actually raised in Providence, Rhode Island, and went to college there, and then on to New York City for three years before moving to Boston. Arlington’s a cool place—right next to Cambridge and Somerville and just 10 minutes from downtown Boston. Lots of history, universities, lots of old houses and beautiful museums nearby. So there’s a lot going on creatively, and a ton of students of art and music and writing in the area. Arlington itself is actually very different now than it was nearly 30 years ago when I moved here—a much younger population and with that a more vibrant art scene. Plenty of public art and art associations. I’m actually in a show right now at Cambridge Art Association with a group of four collage/assemblage artists, and I’m finding more and more people who are doing what I do. So there are a lot of artistic people to bounce off of.
DA: From what I gather collage came to you much later as a way for you to explore visual narratives. I understand you are a novelist and poet by trade. Did you have an artistic background growing up? What have you learned on your own and what tools have guided you?
KT: So, yes, I’m a poet and novelist. I began working in collage five years ago because I was unable to write for the first time in years. In 2013, I published two poetry collections and a novel. It had been an enormously creative time for me, and afterwards I found myself totally blocked. I was extremely frustrated and unhappy. I tried working on another novel, but I found I was being too careful, traversing old ground, doing too much self-editing. I needed to find my voice again—obliquely, through something totally different. As a visual artist I’m entirely self-taught, although my mom is a trained and practicing artist. I’ve always been a “maker” though—always loved fashioning things out of other things—and I’m very good at figuring out how to do what I want to do. My memories of childhood are filled with such exploits. And to the extent that my mom’s example was there from the start, I’m sure that I absorbed something of the meaning and importance of creative work. And as an adult, I am lucky enough to have an ongoing dialogue with her about what we are working on and thinking about in terms of our art. My youngest daughter is a RISD-trained artist as well, and so the three of us are all connected by this great artistic thing we have in common.
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Top Panel - The Last Conversation, 2020 / The Sitting Room, 2020 / The General, 2021
Bottom Panel - Side Eye, 2020 / The Neighbor's Place, 2018 / When They Were Good They Were, 2020
DA: I was going through your Instagram and you posted a video of your studio space. Let’s just say it looked like a tornado hit! Should I even ask how you organize your materials or just assume that they are piled up in every corner, spilling out onto the surfaces, and strewn about the floor? No judgment—mine doesn’t look any better these days!
KT: Piles and overflow. That about says it. And I find the freer I work, the messier it gets. These days I tend to use as my materials what happens to be close at hand. But that being said, there are some systems in place—some bizarre bits of logic as to where things are in the room. When it occurs to me that I need a specific thing, I generally know where to go to find it. And when things get really out of hand, I’ll just know that I can’t do another piece until I’ve given the place a thorough tidying.
DA: You like to use vintage & retro imagery in your work. I noticed in several of your pieces that you have multiples of the same image. Are you printing out your imagery to use in your work, as well? Do you have a favorite source material and where do you find it? I imagine Arlington and the surrounding areas must have some great antique shops and used bookstores!
KT: Yes, I use both real photographs and xeroxes, often digitally manipulated. As to source material, every day I find a new favorite source material! I love historical documents and images, and I’m a collector of old ephemera—much to my husband’s chagrin. Our house and garage are filled with flotsam and jetsum. Yard sales are a good source, and, yes, used bookstores, but also sometimes eBay when I’m looking for something very specific. I love perusing other people’s trash!
DA: You collage found and recycled objects. A favorite substrate of yours is upcycling window sashes. Can you pinpoint the “aha!” moment when you conceived the idea to apply collage to the pane? What was the very first piece you created using this technique?
KT: Yes, absolutely. One day, a year or so after my creative block, I found a beautiful antique window by the side of the road. I brought it home and started collaging directly onto the glass using old papers I’d accumulated over the years. I’ve always loved old things—old papers especially—and much of my work these past several years involves found and recycled objects: old ledgers, receipts and certificates, graphs and architectural plans, newsprint, chicken-wire, and laundry lines. And, of course, windows, which serve as frame and substrate but also a conceptual springboard.
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Top Panel - The Heretics, 2018 / Bacchus and The Virgin, 2017 / On The Runway, 2018
Bottom Panel - The Fallen Woman, 2018 / un.lock.ed, 2019 / The Lord, She Will Carry Us (II), 2020 / Leg or Breast?, 2018
DA: Can you elaborate on your creative process? Where does the germ of the idea begin? Do you start a project with something in mind? What materials do you utilize?
KT: My process, in writing as in art, is very organic. I begin with an image or a color, or, most often, a combination of two things which call out to one another in an interesting way. In fact, art-making is very much like writing poetry for me—something grabs me, and then the process itself takes off, like a spooked horse or something tumbling down a hill, gathering leaves and bits of grass along the way, until it finally comes to its resting place at the very end. And it is only then that I knew why I had to create it in the first place. Like an answer to a question I never knew I was asking. As to materials, all the things I mentioned above, plus needle and thread sometimes, inks, acrylic paint, craypas, organic material—pretty much anything that occurs to me that can be stuck onto something else.
DA: Lack of inspiring materials over the past few years has led me down the path of creating mostly digital collages. Now, when I sit down to cut&paste, these perfectionist tendencies crop up. The struggle is real, but getting out of my comfort zone (behind the screen) has really pushed me to think about the art form differently and I’m slowly becoming a lot less precious about the process. Are you okay with all the mishaps that come with hands-on collaging? Have you nailed down your technique? What are your thoughts on digital vs analogue art?
KT: I live for the mishaps. And I’ve learned that botches are only opportunities for new directions. It’s really important that the work never become so precious or “directed” that it seals off possibility. As I said earlier, I never know where a particular work is heading, so wherever it happens to lead me is okay. As artists, we can tell when something isn't working, and for me that just invites new opportunities and solutions.
As to my technique, I guess I’d have to say that’s constantly evolving. Exposure to new materials and styles and concepts always enhances and broadens my work. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on Instagram, looking at art, figuring out what artists are doing with their materials and their approaches. As to digital versus analog, I’m analog all the way, with the caveat that I do sometimes use digitally manipulated photographs. I can appreciate digital, but it’s just not my thing.
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Top Panel - Studio Pic & Process / Kim's Headshot / Self-Portrait With Aging, 2020
Bottom Panel - Self-Portrait with Plumbing, 2020
DA: Much of your art appears to be centered around women. In an article for Wicked Local you said that your art deals with "issues of gender and how nostalgia intersects with gender roles”. Your website artist statement leaves out your feminist leanings. I’m curious about this omission! Do you prefer to let your art speak for itself?
KT: Ha! I just haven’t updated that part of my website recently! In answer to your other question, though, I do tend to let my artwork speak for itself. It’s important for the viewer to bring his or her own experiences and associations to each piece. It’s that connection that “closes the circle” in a sense—allowing the art to communicate with people as individuals and offer itself up as a prompt. I think that every act of art-making (or poetry-writing, or song-writing, etc.) is an act of throwing out a line for someone else in the universe to catch. That’s why it can be so dispiriting for artists to not have the opportunity to put their work out there. As a related aside, I’m part of this amazing global art project called TELEPHONE, which just launched this past week. It involves artists of all stripes from around the world and is played like the child’s game of the same name, with each individual artist “handing off” a piece of art/inspiration to another. It’s been ongoing throughout the pandemic, and it’s been an unbelievable way for artists around the world to communicate with one another. Because, in the end, art is first and foremost about communication.
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Top Panel - OH, 2020 / Winter Of Our Discontent, 2019 / For Morning, 2020
Note: After some digging I found Kim's artist profile on Kolaj Magazine—you can find it here. In it she touches upon themes of gender and different socio-historical perspectives. Her response continues below.
KT: I think I would say two things: First, on the level of the individual piece, I never really know what it’s about for me until it’s complete. It’s like there’s some subterranean thing going on, and when I finish a piece I realize why I needed to make it. So there is no intention there at the outset. Second, I think I was a bit slow to realize that my pieces really were forming a rather cohesive body of work. So that’s been a gradual dawning. And I think that’s been especially so in the last few years. My work has evolved, quite rapidly, I’d have to say. My process has become much more wildly organic. Increasingly, as you note, the work seems to focus on issues of gender expectations—historical and evolving perceptions of femininity and sexuality. I’m especially interested in the notion of nostalgia—how old perceptions collide with current societal realities—and the emotional artifacts women continue to carry as a result. I personally grew up in the 60s and 70s, so I’ve always felt that I was born into one world and “weaned” into another. My parents were very much products of the 50s, and then came all the women’s lib and free love stuff of the 60s. So I definitely carry that kind of emotional whiplash inside me.
DA: Your collages can be light and playful but also quite moody and dark. Your collage “The Lord, She Will Carry Us” is one of my favorites—it’s complex and witchy. Tell us about this work and what inspired it? Does the material on hand dictate the collage to come? Are you moved by the spirit of the imagery?
KT: For this piece, I began with the photograph at the bottom—a fantastic, evocative photo of a dancer in a kind of ecstatic frenzy. I think this was actually a still photograph from a Pina Bausch dance—I can’t remember exactly which one—but what grabbed me first were the curves. I was fascinated by them: the arches of the body, of the hands. They got into my head, and I found myself pulling in other pieces that seemed to resonate, like the section in the upper right from the “Beethoven Frieze” by Gustav Klimt, the beautiful black and gold paper with the cathedral-like arches, and the fabulous old German architectural drawing. The endless variations and repetitions of the body and the hands, the curves and the colors and the circles. So, yes, as I’ve mentioned, I let the process unfold as it’s meant to unfold. All it takes is the right image to get me started and then other images find their way in.
The Lord, She Will Carry Us, 2020
DA: What has influenced your journey as an artist? Would you share a childhood experience or memory that has shaped your aesthetic?
KT: Interestingly, I didn’t start working creatively in any form until I was in my late 30s. That journey began after after a clinical depression, which threw me into journal writing, which ultimately brought me to poetry. What I can say about my childhood years is that my mom’s presence as a quiet creative force in our family was critical. My dad’s side of the family—and ultimately my brothers—were all doctors, which provided a very different kind of energy in the house. So just having a mom who could sit quietly and look inward and glean so much from her own solitary work provided an essential counterpoint.
DA: I have been interviewing collagists that also moonlight as poets! Poetry and collage share similarities, so it seems natural that you would take to the medium. On Instagram your piece “This Old House” combines poetry and collage, created for the theme of aging. How has poetry informed your artistic practice? Would you share the poem with us?
KT: Of course! And as to poetry and collage-making, they inform each other—so much cross pollination! The thing about both poetry and collage-making is that they’re both about flying leaps: Images (or words) “choose” each other, patterns repeat—intentionally or not—narratives are suggested as much by what is left out as what is included. From the start I’ve found it incredibly interesting to see how two distinct images, placed in proximity, can create a totally new and unexpected energy. Sometimes, the combination alone is enough. Sometimes, the narrative that’s suggested is enhanced by repetition and variation and other artistic techniques. What is clear is that the resonance created by unique pairings can be so much larger than the sum of the individual parts. It’s this energy that I seek to harness in my collages.
DA: On the topic of poetry, would you indulge your fans and create a poem to accompany a collage of your choice?
Sure. This is a poem I just wrote for a new collage of mine called “Run”.
DA: Share a film that has inspired you or a book recommendation. Can you elaborate on your choice and how it has fueled your creativity?
KT: I bought this book for my mom about the artist Romare Bearden called “Something Over Something Else". She was living with me through much of the pandemic, and we used to sit and pore over it together. What an amazing artist. He fills me with wonder and challenges me to try and push all my boundaries. Whenever I feel as I’m freeing myself up, I just look at his work and realize how far I have to go! I highly recommend it.
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Top Panel - Fault/Lines, 2020 / You Push All My Buttons, 2021
Bottom Panel - Good and Hungry, 2020 / Look At Me Now, 2020 / Eye Of The Beholder, 2020
DA: Last question! Do you have any big projects in the works that you would like to share with us? What can your fans look forward to this year and beyond?
KT: I’ve had two ideas bumping around my head. One is the possibility of producing a series of collages tied to a book of prose poetry I published in 2013 called “Hadestown”. The book’s about the myth of Heracles and his journey into the underworld and is told as part mythic quest, part post-apocalyptic travel narrative in the setting of 9/11 New York. So I’ve long thought about visualizing that tale. The other idea is much more recent. I lost my Dad a few weeks ago after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 91, and one of the most vital people I’ve ever known. And then just yesterday I happened to sit in on a Zoom workshop with another collage artist, Alexandra Sheldon, and she was making collage postcards. And I loved the notion that the postcards can kind of tell you who they’re meant to go to as they’re creating themselves. So I thought I’d play around with the idea of a project called “Postcards To My Dead Father”, which sounds kind of morbid but I think might, in fact, be really healing.
Life Was Easier as a Square—
razor-edged, an absence
of tilt, corners sharp and sure
as bayonets, pinning it down
to something else.
There was a house
and it was anchored in bedrock,
there was a
plan. Outside the window:
the steady deployment of seasons
and even a man with a gun,
Where is he now?
Everything suddenly formless—
and bleed; the chaos
of curve. Even night comes
charging in, even dreams,
unbidden. The mutiny
Above our heads:
carelessly toward the sea.
Check out Kim's tune recommendation by Mandolin Orange “Golden Embers”.
Website | Kim Triedman
Instagram | @kimtriedman
Saatchi Art | Kim Triedman
Kolaj Magazine | Kim Triedman