Collages by Sheena, Queen of the Hallway aka Jo Ann Tunnell Muench

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When I begin a collage, I almost never have a theme or a statement that I want to make in mind. I usually reach for a batch of pictures and images and select the ones that speak to me. Themes and recurring images emerge only when I look at a finished piece. 

 

However, I do know that I have a number of recurring themes in my work: 

 

1. "My Apocalyptic Childhood Nightmares": These always depict great calamity and are often associated with nuclear war. This stems from a very real reality in my childhood. I was a child of the Cold War. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. My generation was the generation that practiced "duck and cover" in case of a nuclear attack. I had just turned eleven when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. I was a bit precocious and understood the gravity of the situation. My parents tried to keep us from worrying about the crisis but I could read their faces and I knew that things were very serious. I remember walking home from our neighborhood drug store one afternoon as the world stood on the brink of extinction and thinking how unfair it was that all of us children would never have a future because of the actions of men in power. 

 

I often had dreams of bombs going off and sirens sounding. These dreams haunted me for a long, long time. And, the fear of nuclear annihilation appears in many of my works. 

 

2. Strange planets in the sky or a moon that is too large or the wrong color. At the same time as I feared nuclear war, in my childhood, I also had recurring dreams that frightened me. They always were dreams of looking into the sky and seeing two moons or two suns. Sometimes I dreamed of looking up and seeing a moon that was dark red or a sun that was too close to the earth. Other times I dreamed of the atmosphere being enveloped in a strange yellowish light. I often use this yellowish light in my works to convey a sense of the unnatural. 

 

3.  Innocence is another theme I use often. As I grow old, I am more and more struck by the sheer innocence of children. And I am also moved by their innate wisdom. Sometimes I look into the eyes of a young baby and imagine that their eyes have already seen much and understand much. I think I feel that the very young are closest to the thin veil that I believe separates this reality from other realities and dimensions. I also believe that the very old can sense this other reality as well and I often portray the aged in my works. 

 

These are just a few illustrations of recurring themes and dreams that have influenced my art. There are many more things that I draw upon when I work: the circus, butterflies (I will write an entire blog on my butterfly series), people sprouting wings, vanity, women with who are strong, death, heartbreak, loss, and fear. These are commonalities I share with most humans. We all celebrate birth and we all mourn death. We are all touched by joy and broken by pain. Life is full of moments of great emotions and seasons where you either perish or you survive. 

 

Life is what intrigues me. Dimensions of reality intrigue me. Skirting the barriers between one reality and another intrigues me. The outcasts, the rebels, the freaks, the weird ones always intrigue me. I am comfortable with ambiguity and my work often is ambiguous. There is often a cognitive dissonace that occurs in my art. I like to take figures from one era and place them in an entirely different era. I like to have my images defy time and space. I like to see people who can fly. Hence, the butterfly wings and angels' wings. And, I believe in angels even if they are not the kind of angels that are depicted by established religion. Angels walk among us. The impossible occurs with regularity. Life is always full of surprises and nuances and amazement. Life is beautiful. Even those things that are classified by society as "ugly" have a certain beauty. I like to elevate those things so that others can see the beauty of imperfection. 

 

People often ask me why I use scissors and paste to make my collages when it is possible to make digital collages that are technically superior. I have a simple answer. I cherish those things that are made by hand. I love to see the human touch. I collect handmade pottery, embroidery, needlepoint, art, handmade books, handmade jewelry etc because it bears the personal imprint of the maker. I find beauty in the imperfect and am a believer in the wabi sabi aesthetic. And I do tend to ramble. I am rambling now so I think I will do what I love best and make some art. Ciao 

 


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