If you’re anything like me, you like to collect bright, shiny, evocative things like souvenirs from that vacation abroad (remember those?), nostalgic family photos, or scraps of cloth or patterned paper. And if you also live in a tiny apartment and want to avoid clutter, you might consider transforming those items into art—specifically, into a vibrant collage.

Colorado artists Tya Alisa Anthony, Mario Zoots, and Kelly Duffield are masters of that particular brand of art, and their polished creations grace the permanent collections of the Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, as well as numerous galleries and private collections. That’s why 5280 spoke with these three multimedia makers about their work, their processes, and what advice they’d give to someone who wants to try snipping and glueing their own creations.

Tya Alisa Anthony

Photo courtesy of Tya Alisa Anthony

A multidisciplinary artist who makes sculptural and two-dimensional artwork that is often collage-based, Tya Alisa Anthony is a Colorado native and a military brat. After traveling the world with her family, she returned to the Denver area in 2011 and earned a degree at Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design.

Anthony’s works are in the permanent collections of the DAM and at the MCA Denver. She has shown extensively in Colorado, was a Redline artist in residence in 2018, and serves on the advisory board for Denver’s LEON Gallery. Follow her on Instagram

5280: Can you tell me a little about your work? 
My work is informed by historical BIPOC narratives, oral histories, and archives that I’ve reimagined through collage and reliquaries [containers for relics.] My research-driven practice is an investigation of rituals interspersed into our daily lives as an exploration of intercultural relationships, investigating fact with interspersed fiction. My practice observes and preserves inclusive spaces for people of color.

“My Brother’s Keeper” by Tya Alisa Anthony. Courtesy of the MCA Denver

Why does using collage work for you and what does it allow you to say?
It allows space to explore multiple narratives and intersectionality through the lens of viewing the past, present, and future all at the same time. I believe time is relative, and collage allows for my imagery of choice to become a new narrative with respect to African traditions and ancestors.

Pro tips

  • Collect, collect, collect!
  • Research public domain and personal imagery.
  • Work metaphorically, work from experience, but always change the narrative toward impacting society positively. Never be afraid to push the envelope.

Essential materials

  • X-Acto knives
  • Multiple cutting mats
  • Magazines
  • Glue
  • Transfer solutions
  • Various weight watercolor paper
  • A good lamp
  • Banging playlist

Mario Zoots

Photo courtesy of Mario Zoots

Denver native Mario Zoots earned his initial art chops doing graffiti as a teenager in the 1990s. Other graffiti artists took him under their wings, sharing creative techniques that connected tagging with typography, color theory, and composition. He continued his studies formally, earning a bachelor’s at Metropolitan State University and a master’s at the University of Denver. Informed by his street graffiti and art history training, Zoots’ photograph-based collages make a nod to the art movements of Dada and Surrealism, creating visual language that ties past and present together. Zoots’ last Denver solo show was in 2019 at K Contemporary, the gallery that represents him. Follow him on Instagram.

Can you tell me a little about your work? 
The lure of discarded images and objects lies at the heart of the studio work I create. I use second-hand book covers, vintage postcards, or scrap construction materials; I attempt to make collages or assemblages that are nostalgic yet also uncanny and absurd. By deconstructing, combining, and adjusting found debris, I attempt to create a visual language that explores the subversive force of the lost, broken, or no longer needed.

“Neither Here Nor There” by Mario Zoots

Why does using collage work for you and what does it allow you to say?
I like the transgression of taking something that’s not yours and transforming it, reimagining it, and making something else from it. For me, collage is essentially about time and the transfer of energy: I take old images that have had a life already and reimagine, recombine them into a new visual life. Collaging allows a transfer of energy that moves from the original artifact into my finished compositions.

Pro Tips

  • Limit yourself to one book or magazine. This self-imposed constraint will narrow down the infinite number of choices and help you build your signature visual language.
  • Cut every photo out and then start to build a palette and motifs before your start composing and glueing.
  • Make tons and tons of stuff; repeat, repeat, repeat.

Essential materials

  • Obscure found photos from books and magazines; sometimes online images and my own photography

Kelly Duffield

Photo by Natalie Pigliacampo / Courtesy of Kelly Duffield

This Boulder artist creates collages with found imagery enhanced with paint and drawing, as well paintings that look like collages, but are purely paint, turning the medium on its head. Her surreal scenes of domestic life take you into a place where Alice in Wonderland or a Wes Anderson film might have lead you. You can see Duffield’s work at the group show ARTMIX 2020 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art until August 22. Follow her on Instagram.

Can you tell me a little about your work?
My artwork contains collage-driven scenes that are often strange, surreal, and sufficiently ambiguous to evoke the viewer’s imagined or projected meanings. When creating a new mixed-media piece, I begin with collected images. The collage elements are not simply affixed to the work, but manipulated (by painting or drawing on them) to enhance or alter the color and perception of depth. In contrast, my backgrounds are painted as a flattened space.

I pull my collage imagery from a variety of sources, old and new, including inherited vintage Scandinavian design magazines. I also make really large paintings that do not contain collage at all. They are, however, based on the same collage process to create the composition and then enlarged to make the painting. I find that sticking with my collage process forces a more compelling composition and narrative. So the artwork shown here [below] is not an actual collage piece, but rather a collage-driven or collage-inspired painting.

“Same, Same 1” by Kelly Duffield. Photo by Wes Magyar

Why does using collage work for you and what does it allow you to say?
Allowing found images to influence and drive the narrative in my paintings brings my subconscious thoughts to the work and results in combining imagery in unexpected ways to convey unspoken thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

Pro tip 

  • Collect, collect, collect imagery that you are drawn to. I have drawers full of images what are just waiting to help tell a story.

Essential tools

  • Fiskars microtip scissors
  • X-Acto knife