Mosaic Collages – How they were born

The mosaic collages are a gift from the mighty Mississippi, my muse when I was growing up in Baton Rouge. I often visited the river, walking to the top of the levee to see the barges. As a matter of fact it continues to be one of my favorite sights. Specifically, rain on the river was the catalyst to my mosaic collage-making. The drops were huge and distinct one from the other, like glass bits for a mosaic.  Each was a fragment of a new vision of the river.  Each torn fragment of paper in my collages is an element that is part of the whole.  Equally important are the jagged white edges that unite the compositions like grout does for mosaics.

Springtime brought tension with flood season when the river would be level with the top of the levee. Of course, news of levee breaks permeated my consciousness as I watched the water only inches from my feet as I stood on its bank.  In the 80’s with this in mind I made a group of small mosaic collages as my response to my feelings about this force of nature.  I named them “Dark and Mighty River.” Beauty, fear, power and moodiness attend my muse.

In 2014 I recreated the 5×7″ originals as 22×30″ full sheet collages.  The surfaces were titillating.  The making of these works compelled me to make even bigger ones. The largest ones are 60 inches by 48 inches. When I stand in front of them, movement and stillness are held in tension just as they were in the mighty river. Looking at the surfaces take me back to deep-seated sensations of movement and tension that the river gave to me.

I returned to Maryland in 2015.  Sunrises became my inspiration for the mosaic collages which I continue to make.  Slowly other influences come to bear on them.  I am introducing new materials into my works. Flattened cardboard boxes, shiny coffee bags, woven produce sacks and other throwaways now play alongside the softness of the pastel-colored surfaces.  The journey of discovery continues.

2016, Sheryl Southwick