The Power of a Collage | Teen Ink

The Power of a Collage MAG

November 1, 2019
By kdevitt200 BRONZE, Belmont, Massachusetts
kdevitt200 BRONZE, Belmont, Massachusetts
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
Be the Sunshine

Nothing satisfies me more than the process of crafting a collage. The tearing, painting, and pasting is mesmerizing, but also meaningful; it opens the door to new possibilities and inspires creative thought. My most recent collage is always my favorite –my latest was made during my time as a counselor at sleepaway camp last summer.

For this collage, I pasted scraps onto a well-worn wooden board from the craft shop. Bins full of torn magazines and newspapers offered an abundance of material. I found ads with hidden meaning from all sorts of magazines – National Geographic, Macy’s furniture catalog, TeenBop – and pasted these phrases onto my board: "You can do it. Every mile is magic. A little sweetness goes a long way." I found words that embodied my spirit: Energize. Dance. Explore. I pasted paintings of life’s beauty: bees on yellow flowers, families playing spikeball by the beach. 

Although my board reflects my most recent obsessions, memories are implicit in each scrap. The phrase "feel cozy" brings me to the fireplace in my dim-lit living room, surrounded by my family’s laughter and the smell of wine. The faded purple skyline painted above a village square recalls scooter rides at dusk with my sister; we would race down the slope of our street, giggling with delight and conversing with unspoiled innocence. When I admire the photograph of 10 birds aloft together with a caption that reads "And forward!," I am reminded of my cabin of 10 campers who I lead forward, not just to activities and meals, but into their growing maturity and independence. 

It fascinates me that a collage can transform scraps into a story. They are visual mappings of thoughts and emotions, and can illustrate the complexity of someone or something. My collages encapsulate my disposition in particular moments, but also reflect my growing sense of self; through collaging I map my changing perceptions, experiences, and passions into an identity. 

I think of myself as an accumulation of my collages, beginning blank but rooted in the values of my family. Growing up, my parents were honest with me as they shared their feelings during arguments and conversations. They revealed the complex histories that drove their emotions, widening the narrow lens that framed my opinions and thoughts. They are my foundation; I am open, authentic, and compassionate. As the years pass, I grapple with new ideas and experiences, adding design to my collages. The scraps overlap; my collages are lumpy and messy, but dance with color and light. Nostalgic purple reflects the delightful and transformative nature of my early adolescence. In the blues I see growing confidence from new friendships, and in the greens, fresh individuality in my taste in music. Colors play together as I begin to accept my flaws and my talents. Winding through my collages are shades of yellow because I lost my friend Cleo to cancer, but her light is always with me and her wry humor will forever make me laugh. 

My collages remind me that I will not allow life’s setbacks to discourage me. I am more than a loss, a flaw, or a mistake. I recognize myself as a work-in-progress papered with life’s complexities, and have discovered that it is the things we love that provide the glue to our stories. I am hikes that overlook Lake Osspiee, spikeball tournaments, and the rush of excitement when “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedinfield plays on Bedtime Magic 106.7. My mother is family dinners on the lawn, cheers on the sidelines of every sports game, and unconditional love for everyone she knows. Cleo is llamas grazing in Peru, fashion shows in New York City, and wry jokes about the economy. 

As I move forward, I will continue to transpose myself onto my canvases. My wooden board is now complete, and I look forward to decorating a new blank slate.  

The author's comments:

Publishing this piece would mean the world to me- I truly love this essay and want to share the importance of transposing ideas of self onto collages. 

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