Jess (Franklin Burgess Collins). Collage for Joe Dunn’s The Better Dream House. Wherein the huge sickness of lovely Pauline and the first smells of imminent molasses, These make him take more steps than necessary he walks around tiring himself till he has an epiphany, Bernard walked in limping & sat in the wicker chair which had no legs, The Killing of Visions, Bernard coughed & therefore was the first to go into the playland, Pauline’s eyes watered and glistened within the shadows of her cheekbone, The window in Sal’s room had a rope which ran across the alley & up one flight to Steve’s apartment, …and became the first to listen to the white globules behind his eyes, wondered at the small death bubbles more numerous than notebooks, and a half note and ten feet above it all the moon! (top to bottom). White Rabbit Press. 1968.
Jess Collins. Emblems for Robert Duncan II. Sentences of an Inaudible Bell, Into the Troubled Childish Day, They Were There for They Are Here, The Ayre of the Music Carries, To Open Night’s Eye, Once More Remembering You Build the Shrine to Ameinias, Do You Know the Old Language (top to bottom). 1989.
Love, love, love this scrapbook/artists’ book co-created by Robert Duncan and Jess (Jess Collins), the San Francisco poet & artist power couple. On the left-hand page, a drawing by Duncan and on the right, a collage by Jess.
1. Tell me how you get to photography and visual art in general?
«The process itself drives me. At times I have the urge to visually document my immediate environment, a diary of sorts. I occasionally find seemingly banal events and objects strange and beautiful. If I’m lucky there’s a decent quality of light and a camera handy to photograph them. Other times I’d rather manipulate or construct an image, which is the case for the collages and a few select photographs. Some are catalyzed from readings, films, life experiences or inspired from other visual art, but more often than not, it’s a purely receptive process with the materials used and light».
2. At a first glance your work seems to pic from ordinary or vernacular situations to deconstruct or challenge the viewer perception…
«Many of my photographs are unaltered and unstaged events. When I am out capturing them I drop any preconceived notions or standard ideals regarding my environment. So perceptually, there is a deconstructive process for me which I ultimately hope translates into the image. I feel when we let our cognitive guards down other stories become more bare to us. For me, photography is sometimes a means to tell these stories».
3. Do you have any references in your artistic research. I found some interesting relation with John Stezaker when producing compelling new images by juxtaposing disparate images…
«The qualities of medical and crime scene photographs fascinate and inspire me. I sometimes see this inspiration in a few of my images. Concepts of the unknown, such as the unconscious psyche and dark matter, are topics I occasionally explore. The collages were initially but not exclusively inspired by some of Hans Jonas’ bioethical essays. To name a few, the works of Stephen Shore, William Eggleston and Paul Graham inspire me as well. I’ve been told there is a similarity between my collages and those of Stezaker (which I find brilliant), however my use of collaged masks came through a raw anthropocentric process rather than an awareness of his work. I also find the collages of Jess Collins absolutely brilliant».
4. If today we need more meanings rather than ideas, is your work moving someway toward this prospective?
«I certainly don’t think we need one more than the other but a fluctuating ratio of both because they feed and exponentiate eachother. Sometimes I feel my work offers an alternative perspective, or “meaning” of an image or ideal, however their creation sprout from ideas and other perspectives. So I would hope my work moves further into the dynamic of idea and meaning rather than just one or the other».
5. What are your visions for the future, any upcoming projects?
«Technically, I am looking to work with large format film. I’m a happy owner of a 4X5 view camera and I hope to master its use. In the near future I hope to invest also in medium format. The dynamics of physiological fluids fascinate me, so one photographic project aims toward that end. I’m also looking to continue my studies. I am essentially an untrained photographer, so I’d like to make my way into a decent program, because I feel it’ll give me an opportunity for constructive feedback and growth. In addition, I am looking to study cognitive/neuroscience».