"Many of my pieces are inspired by how flawed human's memories are. But we trust our memory implicitly."
Michigan artist Erin Houghtaling began her love of collages through photography. Capturing memories through pieces of imagery put together. "I love making collages to create a new reality. I strongly feel that our memories are stored in the manner of a collage, rather than a literal image." We had the chance to ask the collage artist about her inspirations, influences, our current state of affairs and the importance of art.
Tell us about your work?
I make surreal paper collages using pages from old books and magazines I find at thrift stores and estate sales. I stumbled into collage after taking a photography course. I had a big stack of pictures I took of my family and from road trips. One day I took scissors to the photos and rearranged everything. When I placed my son peering over the edge of a pool onto the horizon of Lake Huron, something in my brain clicked into place! Haha! I realized that this was how my memory worked. The original snapshots didn't represent my memory at all but the newly arranged images did.
What was the last thing you saw that inspired you to create?
I'm a visual person and an ideator. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. "What if...?!" runs through my head a lot. Just flipping through my source material is inspiring. A few weeks back I found an image of a woman on a ladder but it just sat on my desk. The other night I had a lucid dream of the ladder woman coming out of a large head, so that's what I did with it!
We are living in strange times. What do you want to tell people out there?
Make sure to take time away from social media and the news (often). Be patient. Wear a mask!
Why is artistic expression so important, especially in times like these?
Visual art is so important right now; it is an efficient way to communicate and connect. Emotional connection and understanding is what we need at the moment. Divisiveness is currently ruling and it's killing us.
If you could have a conversation with any artists dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I would thank Jack White for endless inspiration. He's a musician but watching another artist from Michigan make all his dreams come true has been motivating.
What excites you about the medium you’ve chosen?
Here in the U.S. it really feels like an up and coming medium; maybe even a movement? I was very excited to find "my people" in the other collagists out there. Empaths who hate conforming. It's beautiful.
What are some of the subject matters you like to touch on with your work?
Many of my pieces are inspired by how flawed human's memories are. But we trust our memory implicitly. It's such an interesting conflict to think about. Recently, during quarantine, I started my Isolation Series. Inspired by people's true colors coming to the surface during times of stress. Who are you when nobody is watching?When quarantine was first put into effect, my local news headlines were riddled with tales of drunken car wrecks, domestic violence spats and suicides. But also new online businesses being established and people spending days and weeks making masks to give away for free! Humans fascinate me.
What advice do you have for other artists that are trying to improve their craft?
Create often. Be prolific! Don't beat yourself up about taking a break if you feel uninspired and overwhelmed. Don't hold back your unique voice.