Here’s a writer’s calendar if I ever saw one. Print it up and tack it above your desk. Not just New Year’s Resolutions, but resolutions by the month. For example: APRIL/ Composition — How to do it? Sing softly/ make/ make/ What a pretty face she has/ Do not let the fire go out. Sound advice. Loopy, intuitive, surprising, charming, image seeded with words and seeded again with more images. Hybrid art, restless art, art of quotation, homage and reference.
These twelve calendar collages are a rare and sumptuous treat, a phantasmagoria, a riot, a witty extravaganza of hyper-creativity from Diane Schoemperlen, Canadian novelist and story writer, winner of the Governor-General’s Award for Fiction, who just can’t seem to sit still and write but is always extending things. What has always distinguished her as a writer is her capacity to create structural metaphors out of apparently incommensurable texts. For example her novel In the Language of Love is based on the Standard Word Association Test. Art for Schoemperlen is putting things together; juxtaposition is all. The protagonist of that book is a collage artist which is where Schoemperlen got her own start making collages, illustrating her books with art. On Numéro Cinq a couple of years ago we published Diane Schoemperlen’s story “I am a Motel” with collages. And what we have here today is a logical extension of one creative vector, collages with the snippets of text embedded, not accompanying the story but being the work itself.
Diane lives in Kingston, Ontario, a town of writers. We have been friends for years, even edited a book together once. It’s lovely to have friends like this.
This series of twelve collages called “Be It Resolved” grew out of another longer series called “Quick Studies.” In October 2012, my friend Laurie Lewis (author of two memoirs, Little Comrades and Love and All That Jazz, Porcupine’s Quill, 2011 and 2013) asked me if I had any collages to donate to a fundraiser for the Kingston Seniors’ Centre called “6Squared.” It was an art show to which I could donate up to six pieces, each of which had to measure six by six inches exactly. None of my collages were that size so I decided I would make something especially for the show. But it was less than two weeks until the deadline for donations. The creation of my usual collages is a very slow and time-consuming process so I knew I had to come up with something that could be done much more quickly. Casting about for an inspiration, I realized that the pictures on the calendar I keep on my kitchen windowsill were exactly the right size. The calendar is a page-a-day collection of art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art and I had had several versions of it over the years. Of course I had kept them in a box in the basement.
I am most intrigued by the combination of text and image in collage and so I began, first sorting through the calendar pages, choosing the ones that seemed to offer themselves readily to some additions of text bits and other images. I made use of collage material that I had been accumulating over the years but hadn’t found a place for in my other work. I cut the text bits from a number of old textbooks that I’d gathered for larger projects but hadn’t used after all. These old textbooks were spelling and reader primers for young schoolchildren, originally published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Because I had a deadline to meet, I intentionally made these collages as quickly as possible, not allowing myself the usual time I would take to ponder the placement of each and every fragment. This turned out to be a wonderful exercise in subverting my own sometimes annoying need for perfection in my usual collage process. Within a week I had six collages to donate to the fundraiser. I called them “Quick Studies.” Each collage became a small mysterious story, a story that seemed to create itself as I pasted the fragments onto famous paintings by Monet, Manet, Rousseau, Rosetti, Renoir, and the rest. I enjoyed making them so much and they were so enthusiastically received that I continued on and the “Quick Studies” series now numbers thirty-three with many more to come. For me, these collages have become the perfect way to flex my creative impulses without pressure or self-criticism. They are liberating and exhilarating, always giving me an infusion of energy and excitement for my larger writing projects.
The “Be It Resolved” series is an extension of the “Quick Studies” series. It began on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. I am not fond of New Year’s Eve and I do my best to leave it unacknowledged. Nor do I make resolutions. But I suppose I can’t help but think about the upcoming year, as everyone does. Never mind about quitting smoking, losing weight, going to the gym, or trying to be an all-round better person…in 2013 I just want to create more and worry less. I was quite taken with this idea and I posted it to my Facebook page. The positive response was immediate and heartfelt. Most of my FB friends are creative people and, apparently, most of them also worry too much, just like I do. So I made this series of collages to commemorate what had become a collective resolution, one for each month of the year, any year. The collages are intended as a reminder of how important it is to make a place for creativity in the midst of all that other stuff that needs tending to, dealing with, and worrying about. At the request of many people, I have plans to have them professionally printed as a calendar.
Author’s Note: The “Create More Worry Less” calendar is now available! Cost is only $20 each + $5 shipping and handling. Please contact me at my Facebook Author Page for ordering information: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Diane-Schoemperlen-Author/22203973880?ref=hl Or send me an email with “CALENDAR” in the subject line: email@example.com
Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Diane Schoemperlen has published several collections of short fiction and three novels, In the Language of Love (1994), Our Lady of the Lost and Found (2001), and At A Loss For Words (2008). Her 1990 collection, The Man of My Dreams, was shortlisted for both the Governor-General’s Award and the Trillium. Her collection, Forms of Devotion: Stories and Pictures won the 1998 Governor-General’s Award for English Fiction. In 2008, she received the Marian Engel Award from the Writers’ Trust of Canada. In 2012, she was Writer-in-Residence at Queen’s University. She has just completed her latest project, By the Book, a collection of stories illustrated with her own collages.
Lovely. The images in the calendar art become like characters speaking through the bits of text.
I love seeing Diane’s collages pop up on FB, where they are v popular. They remind me in some ways of Lynda Barry’s irreverent, layered work. The text is playing peekaboo with the images and, in the end, managing by some knack of alchemy to contain a narrative.
Excellent calendar. I’ve just finished writing a creative writing thesis and I find myself writing and editing more than I did under the pressure of a deadline. I like the way the images are making connections that aren’t quite explicit. A great example of metaphorical thinking. Personally, my metaphors get freed when I’m too tired to worry about day-to-day stuff: just before bed or just when I wake up, when I’m playing simple video games. Leaving my brain alone helps. White space for you brain.
These give me a happy jolt. Yes, by all means, a calendar with these would be wonderful. I love Diane’s work wherever I come across it.
Lovely, lovely. Just what I needed today. “Create more, worry less.” Thank you for introducing this fine group of work.
Fun stuff.. now back to worrying
Diane, these are brilliant. Especially loved “I think it is our best day.” I’m going to keep an eye out for the calendar.
Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments on my work. With any luck, I’m going to have the calendar available soon. Going to meet with the printer later this week. I’ll keep you posted!
The “Create More Worry Less” calendar is now available! Cost is only $20 each + shipping and handling. Please contact me at my Facebook Author Page for ordering information:
Or send me an email with “CALENDAR” in the subject line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks! from Diane