16 years, 6,000 collages, 1 Montclair artist: Peter Jacobs’ extraordinary ‘Collage Journal’

The Montclair artist Peter Jacobs is working on one of his collages. (courtesy of PETER JACOBS)

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For more than 16 years, Montclair-based artist and artist Peter Jacobs has used the headlines of the day to create both works of art and pieces of history.

Jacobs uses images and text from the daily newspaper to create a colorful, lively collage that reflects current affairs.

He reached a milestone on October 5th with 6,000 collages ranging from political satire to abstract landscapes.

When Jacobs founded “The Collage Journal” on March 31, 2005, he felt a deep polarization across the country.

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“There were wars, the environment went to hell and so on,” said Jacobs, then a collagist for 40 years.

One morning at breakfast his wife gave him a challenge: to create a work of art every day.

“The newspaper was in front of us. That’s what made her up. It was a perfect connection to follow this up in a way that helped me with the processing and gave me the opportunity to turn the paper into something else, ”he said.

“I saw that I had a familiar medium to work and interact with, a visual dialogue with the newspaper every day.”

For Jacobs, making collages with the daily newspaper marking a time in history was a way to process the news and meditate on that moment in the world and on one’s own soul.

“One day led to another, and then a year was over. It just got built into my life as a kind of good habit, ”he said.

“There’s a kind of magic that I think is nice when you take something, transform it and, in a way, recycle it, too,” said Jacobs. (courtesy of PETER JACOBS)

Each morning Jacobs sits down and constructs and deconstructs his visual response and inner feelings in that morning’s newspaper and finally the collage. He often uses the New York Times, but also uses local newspapers, especially those he collects while traveling.

He goes through the paper once and then starts cutting out different pieces. He starts putting these pieces together and may look again in the newspaper for other things that he thinks will either work visually or narrative. The collages last two to four hours.

Jacobs’ collages were initially political and more narrative. His work focused on identifiable people, places, and objects, he said.

“[George W.] Bush was president and there is some kind of ironic, satirical imagery that I created with certain elements of Bush and his wife, ”he said. “Then [Barack] Obama became president, and there’s a piece with him and the Lincoln Memorial. “

Over time, his work became more abstract art and less political satirical pieces, Jacobs said.

He is influenced by the world around him, what is going on in his own life and the news he reads, he said. For example, when reading an article on extinction, he created a picture of a bird against a very dark background.

He believes that the visual elements such as composition, rhythm, color, shape and form are very important for the perception of works of fine art.

His collages are colorful and playful, far removed from the black-white-gray that most would imagine in a newspaper. Jacobs said he approached his art like a painting. But instead of paint, he uses newsprint and turns it into something that wouldn’t be identified as newsprint.

“I put three things together and I realize that I’m going to be looking for a certain shade of green, or something that mixes yellow and green. I usually find things that are pretty close to what I’m looking for, ”he said. “If I can’t do that, then I’ll work with what I have and find a new way to work with the piece I started.”

He uses a pH balancing spray that neutralizes newspaper acid and applies a UV satin varnish to finish off the collage. Once he’s familiar with a piece, he glues it into a 12-page Strathmore watercolor book.

On the back, he uses words and headlines from the newspaper and adds the date.

So far, the more than 6,000 collages are in more than 500 Strathmore books, which are kept in 32 boxes.

“There was a literal and visual context to this piece that it’s very annoying that things are dying out in this world so quickly,” said Jacobs. “But it’s green on the side. There is some hope and there is also darkness. “
(courtesy of PETER JACOBS)

Jacobs said he felt a sense of freedom despite restrictions on only using newspapers in his art form.

“In giving myself these restrictions, I find that I have freedom in the sense that I am not burdened with all possibilities,” he said. “So I feel like the limitations have given me more freedom to explore them. In fact, after 16 years I am still finding new ways to use the papers visually. ”

And he adds that there is “something magical about turning something that ends up in the trash into art.

“This art form has a certain conservation and sustainability, as opposed to using new sources and exhausting color, which could possibly be toxic.”

Jacobs said people were very interested in his collages. A recent exhibit at the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee that showed 120 pieces, 12 each year from the collages’ first 10 years, was well received, he said.

“It’s not an esoteric art. It is not intended. And so everyone between the ages of 7 and 70 was involved and enjoyed it, ”he said.

Jacobs said he has not set an end date for this series and that newspapers may stop production before The Collage Journal ends.

“I can’t predict it, I can just wake up every day and see if I can find another way to get into this process,” he said. “There’s no expiration date that I have for it.”

To see more from The Collage Journal, visit thecollagejournal.com. Jacobs is also updating his Instagram account every day as well as his to blog.

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