Paul Loughney


Twelve years ago, shortly after my son was born, my work shifted almost exclusively to analog collage. Studio space was now limited, and the reference material I had once collected became primary subject material for collage. Collage was a surprise, certainly an unanticipated venture, but it became the perfect medium. Was it my reaction to the demands of fatherhood—the distractions, the time constraints, the new ways I was engaging with life? I was comfortable with the material—printed matter. Growing up reading magazines and comics offered an imaginary world I could inhabit easily and intimately. Collage was familiar territory, a feeling that allowed me to experiment without anticipating where it would lead. Every stolen hour added up and the magazine clippings fell into a visual diary. Though I was unaware of it at the time, I had discovered my own, truly authentic voice. Plus, the scale of the work fit my environment: small.

The focus of my collages has always been notions of appearance and the cultural narratives that dictate ways we present ourselves to each other. I approach fashion magazines as anthropological documents. Excavation starts by cutting, removing, and categorizing the imagery by subject: male, female, fashion, beauty, personal and household products—all idealized to suggest perfection. I integrate masculine and feminine bodies culled from advertisements—alluring and idealized props. I then remove the image from its context, re-shape it, combine it with related or non-related material, and create a visual that now has a life of its own. The result is a new narrative, one that poses rather than answers questions. And in many cases, the narrative is an enigma, a distorted familiarity, one where the viewer might identity fragments but is left to assemble the parts into coherency.

My intention is to create a sense of mystery or otherworldliness. I break apart manufactured ideas until recognizable elements are compromised, uneasy. Images overlap like thoughts, intertwining until existence is possible in new impossible worlds. 

My exhibition, Confetti of the Mind, at Lesley Heller Workspace, includes a larger-than-life-size series of collages displaying fragments that create chasms, broken grids. In this body of work, I used glossy ads with primarily black backgrounds, and preserved just a hint of color or text from the original advertisement. These visual hints placed along the periphery mimic the sub-conscious messages we absorb as consumers. 

A flurry of consumer data, represented by disparate color fragments, floats around our minds like confetti, or rice thrown at a wedding. A celebration gone awry, like a broken fun-house mirror. It’s a meditation on overt glut, visually expressed by both adding and taking away.