by MiChelle Jones
Finding inspiration in catalogs is not unusual; after all, they exist to make us want the items we see there. Consumers are encouraged to imagine themselves in the rooms or to imagine the objects in their own homes. Mandy Rogers Horton takes that to another level; home décor and furniture catalogs are the starting points for imagined interiors — some quite grand and spacious — she renders in collage and paint.
A collection of her new works, “Patchwork and Frankenstein,” is on view at The Arts Company through Jan. 10.
This latest series of collages differs from Horton’s earlier ones primarily in scale, some reaching 44 inches by 90 inches.
Horton began working on the larger pieces upon receiving a commission for “At Home in Any Room,” which now hangs over the hostess stand in the Omni Nashville Hotel’s Kitchen Notes restaurant.
“It was so fun to get to work so large and to see the image that takes up your whole peripheral vision,” Horton said of enlarging the scene.
The original, smaller version of this collage is included in The Arts Company show and features a semicircle of chairs cut from various catalogs.
Working on larger pieces does present challenges for Horton, who works out of a small studio in her home. Her compositions often begin on her studio floor so she can spread out to see, as she puts it, how big the piece wants to be. She lays out the various chairs, windows and other components, then adheres them onto her designated surface.
Horton cuts images from catalogs (Restoration Hardware and West Elm are her current favorites) and magazines (Architectural Digest and Veranda), and maintains files of chairs sorted by size and direction faced, files of picture frames, etc.
The collages began as warm-up exercises when she’d paint on pages or combine images to create new scenes. Anne Brown of The Art Company wanted to show how Horton’s work has evolved, so she included earlier work in the show.
“This is how it started,” Brown said, referring to a couple of small scenes. One of these includes a “fake reflection” Horton created by marrying two similar images.
Rough around the edges
Optical illusions play a significant role in compositions like “Rebuilt From Scratch,” in which the artist conjures an expansive ballroom with Palladian windows and a tiled floor. Some of the windows are in fact upside down, some of the scene augmented with paint.
“I like some of that process to be available to the viewer so it’s not a mystery,” Horton said, “people can see that it’s collage, you can see parts that might be upside down or sideways. In “Good Bones,” text is also visible.
So far Horton has resisted using photocopiers or digital scans to manipulate the images. “At least at the moment, I like the collage and I like the limited vocabulary,” she said. “I can’t just make up a window or make up a chair; I’m limited to what I’ve already found and cut out. If I don’t have the necessary size of an object, I have to go digging for it in a magazine.”
Working with cut-out paper also brings in a degree of imperfection, which Horton said echoes the way new objects acquire a lived-with look once they are brought into our homes.
Horton considers her collaged interiors to be metaphors for the way we construct homes, lives, even our worldviews, from what’s available to us. Thus, the name of the show, “Patchwork and Frankenstein.” Sometimes the results are endearing and cozy, like patchwork quilt; at other times, the mix yields a less desirable result.
“Frankenstein’s monster is also a patchwork and it’s hideous, right? I was thinking about the extreme of those things,” Horton muses. “In the work there’s areas where maybe the patterns don’t match up or you see the linear perspective but then they kind of jog and zig and zag so it’s imperfect, which I think is true of most of our lives.”
If you go
What: “Patchwork and Frankenstein,” mixed-media work by Mandy Rogers Horton
Where: The Arts Company, 215 Fifth Ave. N.
When: through Jan. 10
Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
Contact: 615-254-2040 or theartscompany.com.