Words and Art by Jackie Donner
Photos by Jensen Darden
In the year of our lord 2022, telling people I’m a collage artist needs to be followed by two caveats. First, that I’m analog, not digital, and second that my work is not made of the stuff you find in the scrapbooking section of a craft store. Both caveats are often delivered with a sort of cheeky defensiveness––as if the visual journaling I’ve been using as a form of therapy since age 11 can be reduced to being good at Photoshop or laying out matching elements on a page.
I’m a bit of a purist in my approach; my work is very strictly analog. The only digital component is scanning the work, color correcting anything that the scanner fucked up, and removing dust or glue bits from the image. Digital breaks occur while I’m working if I want to know more about an image than the source material can tell me, and occasionally I’ll document my process for social media. All my source material is cherry picked from my (ahem…extensive) book collection. I use an Exacto blade and UHU glue sticks.
These constraints are important to me because they honor the source material’s integrity, and I’m a huge nerd about where everything I source comes from. They also pose challenges that can very easily be overcome with the use of modern technology. There are many examples of how I get around these challenges across my body of work, but the most obvious is the use of repetition. Finding (and silhouetting) duplicates of an image in the same book or even in different books requires far more attention to detail, patience, and precision than simply deciding to repeat an image and printing out its duplicate.
My print media background may also be partially to blame for my analog dedication; I have a deep appreciation for the printing process. A source material’s age and the way it was printed are both directly related to how the material will interact with my blade, what’s needed to achieve clean edges, and how lenient it will be if I apply adhesive prematurely.
This work is a form of therapy akin to image association journaling. My pieces reveal subconscious truths to me as I complete them. I gravitated towards collage because it’s a manifestation of my deeply rooted fascination with anything in this life that’s a product of human expression. Browsing, skimming, interacting with and learning from books and ephemera, clothing, art, and music that others have created both humbles and validates my short existence on this planet. It gives me perspective and context––a historical and anthropological reality check. From the clothes I wear to the spaces I occupy, my life is as deliberately curated and eclectic as my artwork. My existence, truly, is a collage.
Jackie Donner is a graphic designer, collage artist, and sales marketing strategist living in Rochester, NY. She has a BFA in graphic design from Rochester Institute of Technology, where she also minored in print media and communications. She spent 9 years living and working in New York City, providing art direction and strategy to sales marketing teams at digital publishers like BuzzFeed and Slate, as well as tech startups and small businesses. An avid collector with stints at boutiques and thrift stores, she is also passionate about vintage fashion and styling. She’s been collaging since she was a child, but began taking it seriously as an art form around 2009.
She has zines of each collection of work laid out and ready for print, but has yet to produce or sell any of them, let alone host an exhibition. Perhaps it’s a project for 2023.