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postage stamp collage art
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Sonoran Arts Network

September 2013 Interview
Barbara Brandel

Barbara Brandel is an award-winning Tucson artist. She will be the Featured Artist at Tohono Chul Art Gallery from September 13-through November 10. A reception will be held on September 13 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Here Barbara talks about the postage stamp collages she will be showing in this exhibit.

SAN: Tell us about yourself. Are you a Tucson native? A self-taught or formally trained artist? Do you teach workshops or classes anywhere?

BBrandel: I grew up in the Midwest, always wanting to make things and make art. I am both formally taught (several university art departments and a few individual teachers), and self-taught (figuring out how to do something I’ve dreamed up). I guess I mostly think of my work as self-taught, because it’s all about an artist’s own experimentation and evolution. I haven’t done any teaching.

SAN: You started as a fiber artist, but now you have moved into painting, mixed media work and collages. How did this evolution come about?

BBrandel: I started with drawing long ago, focusing mostly on the figure, doing huge figure drawings and some painting. I wanted to be a painter, but I got seduced by fiber art in 1970, and spent many years immersed in that world.

When I finally gave up on weaving, I transitioned into making assemblages with buttons, keeping my toe in the fiber arts world. But once again, I found a way to make my artwork labor intensive and financially minimally rewarding . I still make a button assemblage every once in a while. The one in the Dia de los Muertos exhibit at Tohono Chul Park is one of a kind. Thirteen years ago I decided it was finally time to paint, and so I do. But eight years ago I discovered a box of postage stamps I’d been saving from letters and postcards I’d received. I decided to use them, and the postage stamp series evolved. Now I spend my time with painting or collage.

SAN: Do you see a relationship between your collages and your fiber art?

BBrandel: I realized at some (late) point, that most of my artwork is about the figure; either about the body, or what goes on it.

SAN: You are showing your postage stamp collages as featured artist at Tohono Chul Art Gallery. How did you choose postage stamps to focus on when creating collages?

BBrandel: The world postage stamps are so interesting, and some of them are really beautiful. But mostly, I like to use them because they suggest a larger idea when all the different stamps are brought together in one garment or object, body or hand. Sometimes I use them with maps.

SAN: The predominant thematic elements of your collage work in this exhibit are hands and costumed figures. Tell us about hands as a motif. What do human hands mean to you?

BBrandel: The series with hands is more recent. In the hands, there are unexpected juxtapositions/relationships, reaching together in a void. The double hands are carefully holding and treasuring something.

SAN: What is the significance of the tree in Tree Glow, and the heart in Eye Heart?

See above.....I have one that is a house shape with a globe inside the house. It’s about care-taking and treasuring.

SAN: Your costumed figures also seem to have a sense of humor in them. Do you see them as a little tongue-in cheek?

BBrandel: They have been really fun to do, and they and I have some hidden and obvious visual jokes in them. Sometimes it is the costume that is outlandish, or the various stamps that are used within a costume that create the visual joke.

SAN: Can you tell us a little about the following works: SAN: International Nature Lover

BBrandel: This is one of my favorites. Thoreau’s face inspired this figure. He is wrapped in the natural world, and knew everything about it, but he didn’t travel far.

SAN: Globe Trekker Duds
BBrandel: This is an older piece, and the stamps tell about where he’s been or where he wants to go, or possibly who he wants to be. SAN: Space Traveler Suit

BBrandel: I found space travel stamps from countries that have never had a space program, so I thought I’d make an astronaut. There is also a flying squirrel, some athletes, early airplane pilots, and a ship stamp that says “new world”. This space traveler is floating above the coast of California.

  © 2023 Barbara Brandel - All rights reserved.