CREATIVE SPACE #22 OF 2022 (Uploaded November 2nd 2022)
CREATIVE SPACE is an award-winning series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published exclusively in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 as a blog series and syndicated as of 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It has its first print run in the paper every other Wednesday, with the online extended edition with EXTRAS running here on the blog and full interviews and extras on AntiguanWriter on YouTube. In 2021, the two–part CREATIVE SPACE mini-series on marine culture placed third in the OECS clean oceans journalists challenge. CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared in the Daily Observer newspaper on November 2nd 2022:
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with EXTRAS.
CREATIVE SPACE #22 OF 2022: ART PLAY – MAKING ‘USELESS’ STUFF AS A FORM OF SELF-CARE
One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of play is recreational activity, especially the spontaneous activity of children. But why should children get to have all the fun? And what is play if not permission to make ‘useless’ stuff?
When I signed up for the digital collage course at imakeuselessstuff.com, I admit that play wasn’t my only agenda – I thought the skills I’d pick up would prove useful in my work (hard to switch off that adult-brain). But this work did feel a lot like play. And for the time that I played around with images and words, it was all I thought about – a reminder that play is a good way to trick the brain into relaxing.
I do think this can be applied to any type of art play – writing to tie dye, ideally if it’s the opposite of what you would normally be doing; but at imakeuselessstuff.com, co-founded by St. Lucia’s Cowie sisters now resident in the US, Catherine-Esther and Kelsey, collaging is particularly playful.
Caption: “Try not to eat your one good eye” by Catherine-Esther Cowie.
“Collaging feels like play – I’m five again,” said Catherine-Esther. She had read on and taken a course on collaging, but she and her sister really took it up as a hobby during the isolation of the COVID-19 lockdown. As touched on several times in CREATIVE SPACE, this period brought even non-artists in to an art space, as the isolation and social tumult underscored the need for…something. It was for Catherine-Esther, the analog collagist working with paper, paint, and glue, reveling in the feel of the textures and colours, “a form of self-care…a fun, creative outlet” through which she could “unwind and decompress”.
Creating through anxiety, depression, loneliness, stress, grief, is not mental health care – CREATIVE SPACE has covered mental health care and the challenges accessing it here, and it is not that – but it is play and, as such, can bring some relief and connection. “I am able to express the things I cannot say through digital collage and that is therapeutic for me,” Kelsey said. And, as captured in the name of their website, this is art-ing that doesn’t come with pressure “to make a perfect art piece”.
That said, the art-ing that they do can be a conduit, as with any art, for the things sitting on the mind or weighing on the spirit. Kelsey, the digital collagist, who has framed collaging as an opportunity to release Black womanhood from racial and ethnic constrictions, said collaging allows her to work through the “beauty, ugliness, pain, and happiness” of “lived experiences” in a way that invites in enjoyment and healing.
Caption: “Melancholy” by Kelsey Cowie.
Catherine-Esther, a poet, says that she finds working with the visuals less traumatizing, “a form of emotional clearing”, and more of an opportunity for community. “I’ve collaged with friends and families.”
The beauty of collaging, at least the imakeuselessstuff.com model is no special skill or talent is required (speaking from experience). “There is an ease to collage art,” Catherine-Esther said. “It really is an inclusive and accessible art form. No painting or drawing experience required. I can just use whatever materials I have around my house.”
Literally, they say, just pull old magazines, books, pictures, or if working digitally, just open Word and start playing around; while remaining open to ending up with something you can frame or something you might want to throw away. Sign up for a class (there are free and paid options) or look to other artists online for inspiration if you feel you need a push.
Caption: left to right: “Midnight Flower”, moving digital collage by Kelsey Cowie; “Schism”, analog collage by Catherine-Esther Cowie; “Self and the Inner Child”, digital collage by Kelsey Cowie; and “What flies at Noon”, analog collage by Catherine-Esther Cowie.
Another reason I like the idea of making “useless stuff” is with the reframing of culture as creative industries, the art paradigm is shifting into something purely utilitarian, which art is not. Art is our business as artists, true, but sometimes we do just want to play. As the sister said, “art is necessary for sustaining the human spirit.”
Catherine-Esther’s poetry has been featured in a variety of literary journals such as Small Axe Project, TriQuarterly, and Palette Poetry, and nominated for AWP Intro Journal, a Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets 2018 and 2019 and Best of the Net 2021. Her collage art has featured in The Indianapolis Review and ctrl + v journal, and ANGIME.
Kelsey has two self-published books including a children’s book, Lil’ Plushie Curly Tail.
Their collage art has shown in the Canadian art gallery, Bleeding Heart Art Space’s Common Flame Project.
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