Torn and Cut Paper

At the Outsider Art Fair, we came across a booth from Main Street Gallery in Milwaukee, Wiscobnsin, featuring collage work by Della Wells. Among many other attributes, her use of torn and cut paper was a marvel, putting together all manner of shades of greens, blues, yellows, reds as the backbone of her collages, like this one, “if they peer in my house, Matisse”:

When I got home, I flipped through magazines to find fields of color, and I’m here to tell you it ain’t easy. To create the effect Wells does, you’ve got to collect, collect, collect. I’m not a collector, and my small stack of magazines yielded . . . not much. But perhaps that constraint is itself worth something: to “make do” with what you have on hand.

Listening List

Bohuslav Martinů: Rhapsody Concerto for Viola and Orchestra


Credits: The source for the image of the Della Wells collage may be found here. The remainder of the images and underlying collages are mine.



17 thoughts on “Torn and Cut Paper

  1. David Nice

    I absolutely love the Matisse collage. Interesting that you chose my beloved Martinu – although the first movement of that lovely work is quite ‘straight’ for him, the effect is usually of a collage that somehow manages to feel organic.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      The Matisse collage is terrific, isn’t it? We were very taken with all the work of Wells we saw–we revisited that booth 3 or 4 times before leaving the fair. And re Martinu, of course, you are the one who introduced me to his work.

  2. hilarymb

    Hi Susan – love the Matisse style paper exhibit … I missed his Exhibition when it was in London – I should have gone …but just never got there. I agree Della Wells’ art is so interesting as too your creation is delightful … I’m not sure if it’s a dragon – but to me that’s what it looks like … minimalistic is good too … and I am definitely not a collector. Thanks for sharing and so glad you had a happy time -cheers Hilary

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Hi, Hilary: the exhibition was very large, so easily overwhelming, but within it there were many interesting gallery displays. Della Wells was our favorite, for sure, but there was a lot worth seeing.

  3. newleafsite

    Love the reminder about making do with what we have on hand! Constraint often does engender creativity, as exemplified by your own piece! A chopsticks wrapper? It’s terrific! Shared this to Facebook, where we miss you — Elizabeth

  4. shoreacres

    I feel as though I’ve seen Wells’s work before: although where or when I can’t say. I was intrigued enough by the Matisse piece to search out more online, and I was greatly amused by several of her pieces titled “Storm in a Teacup.” They reminded me of my own mother’s saying about a “tempest in a teapot,” and since Wells drew on her own childhood, and the stories and sayings of her mother, there was a felt connection there.

    I was interested to see her chickens make their way into your collage, and I laughed to see you’d portrayed “fish and fowl,” which made me think of “fair and foul.” There’s a real sense of movement in your piece that I like.

    I think you’re right about the need to collect, collect, and collect for certain kinds of art: perhaps for every kind. I have a friend in Michigan who does watercolor, collage, felting, and various sorts of crafting, and when I see the photos of the inside of the rooms (!) she’s devoted to materials storage, all I know for certain is I couldn’t live with that kind of clutter. Of course, to her, it’s not clutter at all.

    There’s something below the Rhapsody Concerto that’s giving me a 500 server error. I hope it’s not another of your pieces — I suspect it might be music. Since it’s a server error, I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about it. I cleared my cache and cookies, and it’s still there. Ah, technology!

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      I like those Storm in a Teacup pieces, too. By the way, I realize from yours and others comments on the “fish and fowl” collage (love that–hadn’t realized what I’d done there!) that maybe it’s not clear that the head image is also a collage, again made from the very few magazines I have on hand.

      On collecting, I have a friend who collects all kinds of things and makes gorgeous art out of it. She keeps containers of buttons, shells, and all manner of stuff on a big table. At one point, she was thinking of getting a cat. I cautioned her what a cat might do to that well-laid table . . .

      FYI, re the Rhapsody Concerto, there was something going on with Youtube, affected all my posts and other people’s posts, too. Seems to have been fixed, knock wood it will remain so!

  5. shoreacres

    Ah, good. The silly 500 error is gone. And even better, your comment brought me back to take another look at your other collage. What’s most amusing is that I thought to myself, as I looked at both it and the Matisse, “That’s really something, how different the styles are. I wouldn’t have thought that first one was a Wells.” Hooray for me and my discerning eye!

    Now that I’ve given it another good look, I’m especially intrigued by the feel of a moon rotating around a very interesting planet. But the best, most amusing detail has to be that “moon pie” halfway between the moon and the planet.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      On the other hand, maybe the header collage just wasn’t that interesting to onlookers! I was intrigued with the flower–it’s an ink and watercolor piece from India, ca. 1800, of a silk cotton tree flower (Seemal tree, in India), new to me–so I wanted to “commemorate it” in a collage:

      “In northern India, the Seemal tree blooms with bright orange flowers from February to April. When its fruits split open, silky fronds of cotton waft down to the ground, a common sight in the country side. This cotton is collected and used to fill pillows and mattresses by a community of gaddawalas, or mattress-fillers, who fluff it with the aid of a bowed string instrument that makes a distinctive twanging sound.”

  6. Curt Barnes

    Interesting how the beautiful color in the “rooster collage” makes one return to the “Asian” collage to appreciate its more subtle color coordination. Your lack of magazine fodder didn’t prevent you from making very controlled compositions, Sue! Brava.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Curt: How nice of you to stop by and comment. Your insight here is truly useful–both as to the compare/contrast between the two collages and also the observation about “controlled compositions.” It’s a tricky business, indeed, to determine how much to put in and where and above all, when to stop!

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Well, it was fun, which is the main thing–though I was surprised at how difficult it was to come up with scraps within a single color range. Made me appreciate even more how much scrap-saving Della Wells has to do to assemble her collages.

  7. Steve Schwartzman

    By the way, the beginning of the Martinu reminded me of Vaughan Williams’s 1910 Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. The Martinu piece is from 1952, so I wonder if he was influenced by the earlier work.

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