ART

Sacha Baumann: Cut and Dry

0 Comments 18 June 2013

 Interview with collage artist Sacha Baumann.

By Daniel Barron

 

   As I pull my car in car in front of the Keystone Art Studio space in Silverlake I don’t arrive as a journalist.  True, sitting co-pilot is my friend and Assistant Editor Ariel, and yes, in a few short moments we will be joined by our talented photographer Louis, but those are just formalities.  The true intention behind my visit is informational.  The moment Sacha Baumann meets the three of us in the parking lot and my recorder goes on I am a student.  

     I began experimenting with mixed media art during a feverish state of existential limbo that came over me between college graduation and becoming a bona-fide clock-puncher.  With a surplus of time and unwanted magazines from a prior video store job, I had all the raw materials necessary to unbind my creativity.  I quickly found that inspiration could come from anywhere, whether a fashion catalog or travel journal, and lived for that moment when right-brain mathematics would yield a sublime composition of images.  I appreciated the delicacy involved in extracting, appropriating, and rearranging materials by hand, the unforgiving nature of scissors and glue.  With enough ingenuity, a collage could become an x-ray, an exclamation point, a mirror.

Sacha Baumann photo by Louis C. Oberlander

Photo by Louis C. Oberlander.

     So it was with great curiosity that I approached Baumann after stumbling across her work online.  The southern California native had captured my attention through her meticulously-arranged collage pieces that marry found-objects with matboard, cardboard, plywood, paper-based trash, inks, and acrylics.  Whether spare or surgical in their construction, her striking use of vintage materials to explore conceptions of femininity left a deep impression on me.  I was compelled to trade notes.  

     Baumann never received any formal training.  Forget about art history classes, either.  In 2008, after a long break from college, she collected a degree in Industrial Design with an emphasis on Graphic Design from San Francisco State University.  Before that, she performed paste-ups at her local paper and was the editor of her high school newspaper.  Creativity has been a part of her for as long as she can remember.  “When I look back at works that I’ve done over the years or think about stuff that I did as a kid not a lot has changed, frankly,” she says.  “I’m still in the process of finding an image and cutting it up or ripping it and putting it back together.”  Later inspirations would include the cut-outs of Matisse and Rauschenberg.

Sacha Baumann art

     The shelves that line her studio walls are densely stacked with a veritable archive of old books, newspapers, and magazines.  Ws from the last two decades.  House and Garden issues from the ‘50s and ‘60s.  Soft-core porn from the ‘40s through the‘60s.  Dozens of French magazines from the ‘40s.  They were amassed over the years from eBay auctions, as gifts, or through simple luck and discovery.  Her collection has grown so large that she no longer allows herself to accumulate more material and rejects any donations.  Recalling the boxfuls of unused scraps that insult me from the back of my closet, it’s easy to see why.  But never say never.  “Being a collage artist is about appropriating someone’s work, so everything has already been used before and that’s what I try to interpret.  I’m not interested in buying something new, but I’ll use something that I find on the street or use something that someone threw away.  That kind of thing.”

Sacha Baumann collage

     Exercising discipline has formed the spine of Baumann’s artistic approach.  The foremost lesson I take away from my studio visit is that simplicity can be the mother of invention.  If there is a clarity to her vision, it’s because  every one of her pieces was began with a set of self-imposed rules she calls “obstructions.”  “I feel like I need to give myself parameters or otherwise the universe is too big.  There’s too many tricks.  I want to challenge myself, but also it helps me to concentrate.”

     A valuable resource in lifting the burden of choice has been her copy of The Collage Workbook by Randel Plowman.  The fifty-two prompts contained in the guide offer many useful ideas for Baumann to play around with.  “‘The source material can only be from a particular issue of a magazine and that’s it.  No other material.’ Or, ‘It has to be a juxtaposition between two materials that are much different from each other.’”  She may also stick with a single color scheme or adhere to a specific theme, such as her “Frolic Coronet” series, in which she juxtaposes imagery from ‘40s pinup mags with those from Coronet, a wholesome healthy living publication.

Sacha Baumann photo by Louis C. Oberlander

Photo by Louis C. Oberlander.

     Coming from a household in which she was raised by a feminist single mother has informed Baumann with a strong social consciousness of the way women are portrayed in the media.  It’s a subject she continues to flesh out in new ways.  “Almost always if there’s a person in my piece it’s a woman, so my stuff definitely deals with issues of women and sexuality.  Sexual liberation, innocence.   One of the things that cracks me up about some of the older vintage magazines is how innocent so many of the women look.  The men may be using is for something less innocent but the women look so happy and playful and funny to me.”  This sense of playfulness is how she would like people to observe her work.  At heart, she views her pieces as celebrations of womanhood.

     In her Artist Statement Baumann writes:  “I want to manipulate the tone and intention, creating a new reality. This is how each artwork begins.”  Since her youth, she has seen art where others may not, improvising new worlds that existed solely on the page.  As she experiments further, she expresses a desire to try her hand at more 3D collage work.  Two dimensions cannot contain her.

Sacha Baumann photo by Louis C. Oberlander

Photo by Louis C. Oberlander

 

Sacha Baumann art

 

Sacha Baumann art

 

Sacha Baumann collage

 

Sacha Baumann photo by Louis C. Oberlander

Photo by Louis C. Oberlander.

 

Sacha Baumann art

 

Sacha Baumann collage

 

Sacha Baumann art

 

Sacha Baumann photo by Louis C. Oberlander

Photo by Louis C. Oberlander.

 

Sacha Baumann art

 

Sacha Baumann art

 

Sacha Baumann collage

 

Sacha Baumann art

 

Sacha Baumann art

 

Sacha Baumann art

 

Sacha Baumann photo by Louis C. Oberlander

Photo by Louis C. Oberlander.

 

Sacha Baumann art

 

Sacha Baumann art

 

Sacha Baumann art

 

Sacha Baumann art

 

Sacha Baumann art

 

Sacha Baumann photo by Louis C. Oberlander

Photo by Louis C. Oberlander.

 

View more collages by Sacha Baumann on her website.

Purchase some of her works here.

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @Sacha_Baumann

For more photography by Louis C. Oberlander head over to his website TriggerChrome.

Follow Louis on Twitter at @louisoberlander or Instagram at @triggerchrome

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- who has written 423 posts on Yay! LA | Arts & Culture Magazine.

Rudderless college graduate Daniel Barron founded Yay! LA Magazine on a love of writing, passion for the arts, and a firm belief that people really like talking about themselves. He contributed to a number of publications, including LA Music Blog and the defunct The Site Unscene, before deciding to cover arts and entertainment the way he wanted to read it. He works as a freelance writer and digital PR consultant in his current home of Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @YayDanielBarron.

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