Merrimack Valley Life

ART OF HAVERHILL

Ben Brierre assembles his own reality through collage

. In Lady Don’t Tek No, the artist depicts an empowered woman in an ancient setting. . Like most of Brierre’s pieces, Put a Ring on It is open to interpretation by the viewer. Haverhill Life photos by Patricia J. Bruno

. In Lady Don’t Tek No, the artist depicts an empowered woman in an ancient setting. . Like most of Brierre’s pieces, Put a Ring on It is open to interpretation by the viewer. Haverhill Life photos by Patricia J. Bruno

A polar bear stands beside a waterfall, gazing at a lone figure. Oblivious, the woman stands smiling as she gracefully balances an enormous headdress of bananas and citrus fruits on her head. Welcome to the alternate reality of collage art, where rules are made to be broken and anything is possible.

The history of collage dates to the early 20th century, when artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, among others, experimented with pasting scraps of wallpaper and fabric onto their drawings and paintings. The movement they launched became known as synthetic cubism. It involves constructing and building up works by adding elements onto a canvas, as opposed to analytic cubism, which involves breaking down and analyzing components of objects. This new form of mixed-media art quickly became popular among other artists of the time. As it evolved through the decades, collage earned a place of respect in the art world and remains highly popular today.

Haverhill artist Ben Brierre has been manipulating reality through collage for quite some time. With a degree in graphic design and years of experience working in the graphics industry, Brierre has an appreciation for balance, form and composition. Yet he likes nothing better than to take a perfect image and cut, paste, add, subtract, reverse and reimagine all components until it becomes an entirely new world.

 

 

Brierre was first introduced to collage at Essex Art Center in Lawrence under the tutelage of instructor and artist Greg Orfanos. “He taught us to begin with an image that inspired us and to use that as a base on which to build the piece,” says Brierre. “In some cases the original image becomes completely obscured as the collage is constructed and the layers are added. You are adding your own vision and style to what initially inspired you.”

Brierre has been hooked on the art of collage since that first class. It has led him to become a bit of a hoarder, gathering scraps of paper, fabric, vinyl and images from books and magazines to incorporate in his work. “Collage for me is a form of escapism,” he explains. “People get so caught up in reality. Life should be more unpredictable. We sometimes need to step out of the mundane and gain a different perspective. My art does this for me, and I like to think that it can transport others, if even for a short time.”

. The Liberator features the well-known drawing from Les Misérables.

. The Liberator features the well-known drawing from Les Misérables.

Referring to his work as “lucid art,” Brierre rarely begins with a concept in mind. “After arranging the various elements and laying them down, I often take a photo of the arrangement and then study it from all angles, sometimes converting it to black and white. The work may be surreal, yet composition is first and foremost to me; I want the final piece to be pleasing to the eye. Only after I am satisfied with the balance and form do I begin pasting the pieces together.”

When asked if he feels that he is collaborating with other artists as he uses fragments of their photographs and paintings, Brierre says, “I sometimes scan an image that I have found in a book or magazine before I cut it up, out of respect for the original artist. I am always grateful to the artist whose work inspired me. Actually, I sometimes feel as if I am collaborating with my younger self, as I often use my earlier drawings in my collages.”

. Balance and flow are important to Brierre.

. Balance and flow are important to Brierre.

Brierre says he feels that he is also honoring the planet when he creates a collage. “I like to collect materials, but I don’t want to waste them,” he explains. “Collage is a way to recycle books, magazines and other items that may otherwise end up in the trash.”

Brierre’s work often carries a message, which is common in collage art.

Yet he prefers to leave that message open to interpretation. Recurring themes do emerge, however. “I almost always use faces or create face shapes in my pieces,” he says, “and I often portray strong women. I was kind of a momma’s boy and grew up with two sisters, and I am now married. I respect women and try to convey this in my work with a nod to independent and empowered women.”

. Clash of the Seasons might be commentary on global warming.

. Clash of the Seasons might be commentary on global warming.

For Brierre, creating collage art is a means of delving into his imagi- nation to see what emerges. “Collage is limitless,” he says. “It comes from within and builds, layer by layer, into something that never before existed. The layers, lumps, images and textures can all come together to create a new reality.”

He says he hopes to inspire and delight others with this altered reality, though, he adds, he creates collages mainly for his own enjoyment. “I like the concept of just pure existence with no purpose, yet even something without purpose has an impact on others,” Brierre says. “I hope that my work might inspire people to explore other realms. Because with art, as with life, sometimes you have to break the rules and march to your own beat.”

Brierre’s work is currently on display at The Winged Rabbit in Haverhill.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *