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Lovely but Dead: getting to know you

I love looking at collage as much as I love making it. There are few things as thrilling as finding an interesting, new, different collage artist. It's like finding treasure.


So, I was delighted to run across Lovely but Dead while mindlessly scrolling on Instagram. It was a stroke of genius on the part of the algorithm.


You know how it goes: you sit down to google an essential factoid (such as who usurped Wu Zetian's throne at the end of her life) and forty-five minutes later you've looked at three llama videos, a cat having the worst ever case of the zoomies, several recipes for gluten-free donuts and the latest on the "scandal" about the Middleton's family photo with Princess Charlotte's hair bending at a "weird" angle. Ooops! It's lunchtime! Got to go!


Social media is designed to trap us in a way that crack couldn't even imagine. It's a sticky Venus flytrap that won't let go. It's so very scary how your brain sort of switches off and yields to the jingles and the imagery. That is why I am grateful to be jolted back into living by the occasional splendid collage. It seems to be the only thing that brings me back to reality. Isn't that an irony? A good collage on my screen is like an alarm clock. My eyes focus. My brain engages.


I cannot put my finger on why Lovely but Dead's work did that for me. In any case, I am grateful and I won't try to dissect the reasons. The fact remains that I was compelled to know more and, thankfully, here we are today. I contacted Emily Morgan (the brains behind Lovely but Dead among other things), and she was kind enough to respond to all my questions. It is our good fortune that we get to collectively benefit from her answers. Thank you!


Read on for a lovely (and very much alive) Emily, who tells us what's going on in her corner of the collage universe. Enjoy!


 

1) Hi Emily. When did you become acquainted with collage?

 

I started collaging about four years ago when I was searching for something “different” to do with my photography. I discovered I had some decent X-acto knife skills, and I was able to craft some interesting pieces, but none of the images really resonated. It wasn't until Dec of 2022 when I picked it back up again and started using botanical illustrations that I became utterly enamored with it. Shout out to Februllage for helping me finally find my “voice” in 2023. 

 


2) Do you have a singular style or do you experiment a lot?

 

I love incorporating antique and vintage botanical illustrations, mostly from Köehlers Medicinal Plants, and I often use the human form. I often like to dissect the shape of a human into negative spaces and try to trick the brain into seeing pieces of people that aren’t there. 

 

 

3) Which artist influenced you the most?

 

Kehinde Wiley is my top influence - the way he incorporates imagery of modern black and brown men and women into glorious and massive classical portraits really make me want to represent all people in my work and surround them in lush and wild paper ecosystems. I also love the art of punk zine and poster culture - this influence often allows my perfectionist tendencies to be ok with “imperfect” elements - it helps to remind the viewer (and myself!) that collage is all just paper, scissors, and glue at its core.

 

 

4) What materials do you enjoy using?

 

Knife: A friend of mine turned me onto the K71 Index Finger Knife from Excel Blades (thanks, Jay!) and I never looked back. The ergonomic design works very well for me, and is compatible with #11 blades. 

 

Paper: I use Strathmore black or white mixed media paper. I also like to use cradled geoboard.

 

Glue: U-HU glue sticks

 

Sealant: COAT by Culture Hustle - a very matte sealant that works beautifully for paper

 

 

5) What’s your current work like? Any recurring themes?

 

I am part of my local arts organization (The Clintonville Arts Guild), and we regularly have professional artists and educators speak to the group. Recently, one of the presenters mentioned that “three things tell a story” and it knocked me back in my chair. This is something I’ve heard all throughout my life (in photography, in writing, etc.), but hadn’t thought about applying it to my current body of work.

So, I am trying to incorporate three elements in each of my pieces - whether they are a shape, a color, or a subject - to tell a story. I am also transitioning some of my work to black backgrounds (vs. the previous white backgrounds) - I feel it gives the piece a moodiness and classic style that I was previously missing.

 

 

6) Can you describe your process?

 

I often take a few days before a piece (or a few pieces) to cut all of my botanical elements and separate them into leaves, flowers, and extra tiny pieces. Then, if I don’t already have a subject (ex: a commission), I flip through my favorite magazines and find an image that speaks to me. Once that image appears, I dissect it in (typically) sweeping knife cuts, I twist and separate them, then fill in the blank spaces with plants and flowers. I often only glue the base of a leaf when I place it so that I can layer in other leaves/flowers beneath it to create a natural growth effect, then I will go back over and glue the loose leaf bits down once the piece is complete.  

 

 

7) Can you tell us about your workspace?

 

I work almost exclusively from a spare bedroom in our house in Columbus, Ohio. Our house is 100 years old and there are big, old windows that let in lots of natural light and overlook our lovely neighborhood. I use a large Fiskars self-healing mat on my desk with a large, overhead light, and I am otherwise surrounded by bits of paper, empty glue sticks, and cats. 

 

 

8) Tell us about your plans and hopes for the future in relation to collage.

 

I fell so quickly and deeply for collage that I wanted to share it with anyone that would listen. I founded the Columbus Collage Collective in August of 2023 with Doug Cuckler (a.k.a. Wonder Doug) and our monthly attendance numbers have grown so rapidly that we are already looking for a larger space to house everyone that wants to join! Personally, I am excited to have my first (ever!) solo exhibition at Granville Center for the Arts in 2024 and to participate in a group show at the McConnell Arts Center in 2025. I am also excited to be working with local businesses to create art for their products (ex: bottle labels for Brothers Drake Meadery), and there are a few collaboration projects in the works that are going to really showcase the breadth and beauty of collage.




For more information about Emily's work visit https://www.instagram.com/lovely_but_dead/

 

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