Writer and Collage Artist
Why a Collage
I am a storyteller and a collage artist.
A collage is neither a painting nor a photograph; it is neither new nor old; it is neither figurative nor abstract. It is all these things, a combination of everything, boldly mixed to form something faintly reminiscent of the past, nuanced with modern diversity. My own life experiences are like a collage.
Growing up in Buenos Aires as a descendant of Spanish, English, and Indigenous ancestors, my life was a tapestry of contrasts. I attended a strict British school where Argentina's history and native culture were taught in English. Even as a young boy, it seemed odd yet befitting that I should learn my country's history in another country's language. Outside the school, the cultural melting pot was evident. Italian Argentines lived alongside Jewish Argentines and Basque Argentines, all having different perspectives that fused together. The stiff-upper-lip demeanor that I learned in the all-boys British school sharply differed from the roar of my neighborhood, where Mother would entrust me to go to the local store to buy lottery tickets for her, chocolate bars for my sisters, and glittery stickers of nymphs and fairies (called "estampillas" in Spanish) for myself. I relished the diversity of the streets and the stories I would hear about family members, including my great-grandmother, that moved to Buenos Aires from the northern provinces. My mother described her as a dark-skinned and determined woman who would use her umbrella as a weapon on the buses of Buenos Aires (“colectivos”) to make sure that men would offer her a seat. "She was a force of nature," said Mother. Somehow, I couldn't help but imaginatively intermingle the history of Argentina taught by the English teachers with the image of my dark-skinned great-grandmother boarding a bus with her umbrella, adorned with glittery stickers of fairies and fawns.
When we were forced to move to the United States to escape the violence of the dirty war in Argentina, I learned to appreciate a new diversity. I took note of the American style of dress, their mannerisms, and their way of talking, which was so different from the English I learned in the British school. Most importantly, I took on a paper route and made a little money to treat myself to comic books. Superman, Batman, and Spiderman became my best friends. My imagination expanded further when my parents bought used art books with images of the works of Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Botticelli. In my mind, I formed a mental collage on the meaning of life, which included Argentine history, the dirty war, American cowboys and Indians, my ancestors, my fairytale stickers, comic book superheroes, and Renaissance paintings. All these elements curiously combined to tell parallel stories.
My complex past has gifted me with a unique lens to interpret the reality around me. I write short stories about my youth in Argentina, exploring my distinct perspective on American culture and sharing my experiences as a Gay and Bisexual man. Similarly, I have embraced the art of collage as a medium to express intricate situations and emotions, presenting a fresh and divergent voice on topics that others may find weird or controversial. I piece together fragments of photographs, paintings, and mixed media, weaving a bridge between reality and imagination, past and present. Each of my collages serves as a visual metaphor for the interconnectedness of our world, creating a dialogue between cultures, histories, and personal narratives.
Ernesto Beckford - July 2023
You can find images of my collages on my Website: https://www.ernestocollage.com/
You can find my short stories on my Blog Page: https://www.ernestocollage.com/blog