The Exquisite Corpse Explored

A Collaborative Project undertaken by five Tucson Artists

The original exquisite corpse concept was formulated by DaDa writers and artists in the 1920’s using unrelated “fragments” of words or images to create new work. The New York Museum of Modern Art had an exhibit of exquisite corpses in 2018. Much of the work on exhibit came from those early writers and visual artists.

The Tucson Project

In the spring of 2018 six Tucson artists formed a study group to explore the exquisite corpse. Our goal was to  play” with themes and formats using images created by the group members to see what happened.

We started the project by creating by creating images that were 4.25 x 8.5” (half a sheet of standard copy paper). Each image had three segments and common “connecting points” so that there could be continuity. We met once a month from May through September. Each of us produced 4 unique images informed by basic themes agreed upon at our meetings. Our themes were: the human body, creatures found in nature, bodies with an ethnic theme and imaginary bodies inspired by technology.

Each month we would distribute color copies of our image to the group. By September our image banks included a total of 24 images. We shifted our focus to how we would present our images in a creative fashion. The traditional exquisite corpse books often utilized accordion spines or three-part pages. Our goal was to develop non-traditional ways of presenting the work. The finished pieces were shown at the October PaperWorks meeting.

The Participants

Elizabeth Brizard, Mabel Dean, Vicki Donkersley, Terry Enfield, Sherrie Posternak.
All are members of PaperWorks – the Sonoran Collective for Paper and Book Artists ( ).

Elizabeth Brizard is a mixed media artist with a technology and teaching background. She has a unique capacity for thinking “outside the box”. She was inspired by her naturally playful nature and a spinning top known as a dreidel. Her exquisite corpse is a re-interpretation of the dreidel All of her cards are mounted and form a deck of cards calling for exploration. They can be attached to the dreidel. But they can also be assembled in unique “house-of-cards” structures.

Mabel Dean is a mixed media artist who took on the challenge of using the images to create individual families from each artists’ illustrations. Her attempt to produce a vertical figure with movable segments was only semi successful. She was unable to provide enough stability to rotate the body parts on the stand.

Her second attempt resulted in five stand-alone in books using the four images produced by the participating artist. Each booklet became a ‘family”. The body part pages are turned to create unique figures.

Vicki Donkersley known for her charming collage work approached the final challenge presentation by creating a game. She formed a triptych (three panels hinged together) to act as the game board. She reduced the size of the original artwork and cut them into 2” x 2” “game tiles”. Next she fabricated clear plastic corner “holders” on the card stock pages so the tiles can be easily inserted or removed, while being securely held in place as well.

The front and backs of the tiles feature different images so you can take out a tile, turn it over, and completely change the figure. When the tiles are moved around from figure to figure, they provide multiple variations, some are quite comical. Twenty-four tiles can be in use at a time.

Terry Enfield was first recognized by the Tucson art community as a textile artist and doll maker. In recent years she has become known for her unique polymer clay and metal art jewelry. One could say she is a mixed media art explorer as she continues to study many different formats for creative expression.

Her corpses were informed by her experience in working with form and stitch. She transformed her images into fine cards and made a custom three part box to display them. The three stacks of images represent the heads, torsos and legs of all 24 images. Body parts are easily rearranged. Her piece is a unique table-top invitation to touch and explore.

Sherrie Posternak Sherrie Posternak is well known for her encaustic and mixed media artwork. For this project she scanned each of the images and printed them on sumi paper. The images were mounted on a polyester/nylon spun fiber paper called Encaustiflex, using encaustic wax medium as the glue, saturating both the sumi and the Encaustiflex until each page became one complete unit. The covers are cotton quilt batting and sumi paper also saturated with encaustic medium. Bright binder rings hold the book together.

Lessons From Geese

Lessons From Geese

Last year PaperWorks presented members with the challenge to repurpose
a cigar box. The challenge was titled “Outside the Box”. It made me really think about what can happen outside the cigar box as well as inside!

I have a file of favorite quotes and went through it to see if anything spoke to the challenge. I found the page with “Lessons From Geese” and immediately realized it was just right for my cigar box! And revisiting it today made me realize how appropriate it is for this time in our lives when we are facing the pandemic and the isolation that the quarantine has brought to our lives.

The box is used as the “stage” for geese in flight. I’m sharing this with you today in the hope that it will inspire you to maintain connections with your family, friends and community because they are necessary components to the life that we aspire to. We can not thrive without others in our lives.

The text below was written by Dr. Robert MacNeish and made popular by Milton Olsen, a minister and bird lover.

Lesson One –
As a goose flaps its wings, it creates “uplift” for the birds behind it. A flock of geese flying in a “V” formation has 70% greater range than a single goose flying alone.
People who share a sense of community with a common goal can get there quicker and easier because they are traveling in snych with each other.

Lesson Two –
When a goose falls out of the flock’s formation, it feels the drag of flying alone, and quickly rejoins the flock in formation to gain from the “uplift” of the bird it is following.
If we have “goose” sense we stay in formation with folks headed where want to go. We accept their help and give help to others.

Lesson Three –
When the lead bird tires, it falls back into the flock to enjoy the lift power of the bird in front.
It pays to take turns, sharing the leadership and hard tasks.

Lesson Four –
Geese flying in flock formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up speed.
By encouraging the others in our flock to do their very best, we will reach our goals.

Lesson Five –
When a goose is wounded or sick ad leaves the flock, two geese drop out and stay with it to help and protect it until it is able to fly again or dies. Only then do they resume their journey.
If we have a s much sense as geese, we stand by each other in tough times as well as good times.

I like to read these goose lessons from time to time to remind me of my role in the “flock”. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us about interdependence and to me it is a fundament truth which requires daily acceptance. The older I get, the more I realize the wisdom and importance of this basic lesson in being human.