Q: Where are you from?
Nicole: I am originally from upstate New York but have called Asheville, North Carolina home for the past fifteen years.
Travis: I grew up in Greenville SC. I have lived in Asheville, NC for 9 years
Q: How did you meet?
N: Travis and I have known each other for years as West Asheville neighbors and former colleagues at craft and enthusiast publisher Lark Books. We shared a mutual appreciation for each other’s work, but really connected creatively over a shared passion for collage—historical figures and influences as well as the exciting renaissance of contemporary work.
T: As Nicole said, we are are neighbours, but the time spent working together at Lark introduced opportunities to work together on an art project.
Q: What is the goal behind this collaboration?
N: Our collaborative work has been focused very much on the process of creative exchange and discovery, pushing each other to as individuals and as a unit to focus on the act of play and practice. Travis, fueled the vibrant online network of highly collaborative collage and zine artists, and I, a longtime practitioner of found image/object collage seeking collaborative experiments, started ruminating over the possibilities of pairing Travis’s highly graphic, pop-culture imagery with my more organic aesthetic into something entirely new.
T: I didn't approach this project with too many expectations. Ultimately, I wanted the show to look good and the pieces to share a common language, but I a was more interested in the experiment of the collaborative process. CO/LAB is a descriptive pun. It's like our laboratory to play and try things we may not have discovered on our own.
Q: How long have you been collaborating, and what made you start?
N: We had a show last Fall entitled CO/LAB
that showcased a collection of approximately 80 collaborative works on paper,
wood, and encaustic created over a two month period of time. This opportunity
helped us focus our efforts, but the unifying thread remained experimentation.
We found the process and results so satisfying that we set our eyes on another
CO/LAB show this coming Fall, this time with an eye more toward abstract themes
T: For me, I think working together on publishing projects at Lark kickstarted the process. There are so many amazing artists and so much that I am inspired by, I can't passively absorb it all without wanting to get involved and join the creative conversation. I have always loved Nicole's work and I thought it would be a fun experiment to work on an art project with her. She shared the same enthusiasm and love of collage so it seemed like a natural, organic evolution.
Q: What do you like most about working with a partner?
N: Collaborations can encourage you to move beyond comfort zones and explore new ideas, concepts, mediums, and themes. It’s almost as if the collaborative act provides permission and even a more direct kick to be more flexible, playful, and experimental. I have found collaborative work to be satisfying at a deeply nourishing level that simply isn’t available with solo work.
T: There is a certain element of mystery and surprise when working collaboratively. It takes you out of your own head and forces you to become flexible and adapt to change. You have to learn to let go and not become attached to things, because they could return to you changed in a way you didn't expect or gone completely. Working this way is a great reminder of how much we hold on to and value our own ideas. It's nice to step outside of that and get into someone else's head occasionaly.
Q: Tell me more about the collaboration process, and how you work together.
N: Our exchange began with a few small paper squares, traded visual messages, waiting for each other to finish the sentence with our own creative voice. We would simply make a creative pass at the substrate of choice and pass the work along to the other to complete. Slowly, over a matter of weeks, a language developed that wedded the raw materials of vintage advertisements and color-saturated magazines with medical textbooks, astronomical maps, and found photos. A pattern soon emerged where the trading developed a sense of comfort and fluidity. Collages quickly took shape on paper, wood, and eventually amidst layers of encaustic medium and paint. We even found ourselves creating some pieces in the gallery while we were hanging our last show. The process becomes, in its own way, addictive.
T: We would both start a group of collages and then trade. After several exchanges we would look at them as a group and make decisions on what we liked and didn't like. It was important for the pieces to work together so, certain intentions and focus were discussed before proceeding with the next batch.
Q: What have you learned from collaboration and who/what did you learn it from?
N: What does it really mean to collaborate creatively? Each individual artist brings to the table their own unique skill set and aesthetic and, when you’re lucky, a spirit of inquisitiveness and openness to experience something beyond the expected and comfortable.
T: Let go, have fun, don't take yourself so seriously.
Q: If you could collaborate with anyone you wanted, who would it be?
N: I would love to work with a filmmaker or animator to bring movement to my collage or assemblage work. I’m particularly fond of stop motion animation and its particular aesthetic leanings. So if we’re fantasizing about dream scenarios here, I would put filmmakers The Brothers Quay on the list. Here’s to wishful thinking!
T: Ray Johnson, but he is no longer with us. I was really inspired by the collaboration between Rob Reger and Winston Smith. I think working with either one of those guys would be cool. The stop motion collage work of Alice Cohen is really great. It would be awesome to work with her.
Thanks Travis and Nicole!