Art Maker: Marianne Connolly, mixed-media artist

  • Marianne Connolly, a mixed-media artist and photographer, has a show of collected collages at Gallery A3 in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Marianne Connolly, a mixed-media artist and photographer, says collage is “about acceptance … The small elements are never perfect … but these quirky bits … make the art.” STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • “Hathor Dancing on the Moon,” collage by Marianne Connolly. Image courtesy Marianne Connolly

  • “Eurydice Descending with Gramophone,” collage by Marianne Connolly. Image courtesy Marianne Connolly

  • “Little Prince Lu,” collage by Marianne Connolly. Image courtesy Marianne Connolly

  • “Lu’s Long Journey,” collage by Marianne Connolly. Image courtesy Marianne Connolly

Published: 2/15/2019 9:03:29 AM

Mixed-media artist Marianne Connolly, who has an exhibit of collages at Gallery A3 in Amherst, says collage is all about “acceptance. The small elements are never perfect, they’re not what I envisioned when I sat down at the table, but these quirky bits — greens too bright or scale too skewed — make the art.”

And most of her work, Connolly says, originates with a story. “The oldest [ones] ... play with stories from secular and sacred literature like Ophelia, Hathor, Inanna, or the Annunciation. Most of them are brides caught in a surrealistic snapshot, all at a threshold moment of change.”

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you're currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Marianne Connolly: My more recent collages originate in my own writing. I’m working on a full-length fantasy novel called “The Other Crowd,” and one of the characters, Lucie, has become a participant in my collages. She’s a teenager traumatized by magic and a forced visit to the other world. In the story, she creates the collage series “Little Lu” as part of her healing.

I use Lucie’s parameters — primarily monochrome materials, manual cut and paste, incorporating “mistakes,” pre-1985 materials — and sometimes succeed at channeling her work, but most of the time it’s a dialogue more than a channel.

HL: Have you ever had a “mistake” — a project that seemed to be going south – turn into a wonderful discovery instead?

MC: Yes, often! Collage is good for that, because things can be cut up and reformed. Once I took my old photographic “mistakes,” cut them into strips and made woven collages.

HL: Name two artists you admire or who have influenced your work. What about their art appeals to you?

MC: In visual art, the collage and assemblage artist Joseph Cornell. His boxes are powerful, and some of his collages juxtapose only two or three elements. Whenever I feel like I have to keep adding more and more itty bitty pieces to somehow justify my vision, I remember Cornell. 

I also often think about fantasy writer Charles de Lint. He writes about city magic and is able to explore difficult subjects while having deep compassion for his readers. I think Charles would understand my collaboration with Lucie, who is both fictional and real.

HL: What's the most recent exhibition/concert/book reading/other event by another artist or group that you've attended and enjoyed?

MC: I recently saw Candace Hunter’s collage exhibit at Hampshire College and listened to her gallery talk. She’s inspired by writer Octavia Butler and artist Romare Bearden, which interests me, because I love both science fiction and collage. 

HL: If you weren't an artist, what do you think you'd be?

MC: An astrophysicist, or maybe a time-traveling anthropologist.

HL: Dream dinner party — who would you invite?

MC: I’d like to invite my six closest friends, who are scattered around the country. But for famous strangers, I’d consider Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein, but if I actually had dinner with them or, say, Patti Smith, Virginia Woolf and David Bowie, I’d dress up as a waitress so I could lurk nearby and eavesdrop.

HL: Do you listen to music while you're working? What kind?

MC: My book opens in a Boston gay bar in the 80s, so I have a fantastic play list. When I’m working on collage, I also like to hear eclectic dance music like Afro Celt Sound System.

— Steve Pfarrer

Marianne Connolly’s “There and Back Again: Collages 1998-2019” is on display at Gallery A3, 28 Amity St., Amherst through March 2. A coversation with the artist takes place at the gallery on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m.



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