|Amid the rubble.|
All images via Mary Boxley Bullington.
Youmans: I think of the floor of your collage studio as leaf litter--a compost composed of dropped fragments that is continually being stirred up and giving birth to something new. Can you talk about your materials and method, as well as your sense of having a call to be an artist?
Bullington: Years ago, my brother Andy, coming into a studio paved with my collage scraps, said, "You could make a whole series just using this stuff, and call it Floor Art." And I do! Here we go back into the idea of the materiality of my work, and how this affects the process of making it. But first, a definition: Collage = any work of art made primarily by cutting or tearing and adhering papers and/or textiles to a support, using the basic principles of design to create unity and surprise. (The word collage derives from the French word coller, to paste.) Collage is made out of 2-D material cut or torn, arranged, and pasted into place. It's a very forgiving technique in that you can cut out the bad and save the good, and also, a highly morphic way to work, because you're constantly moving bits and pieces around, sometimes completely changing appearances and structures as you do.
|Lion collograph to make collage pieces.|
|Lion early on, with human mask.|
|Lion, approximately stage three, on olive ground.|
|Standing His Ground. 2011-2015|
|"Who Peynted the Lion?"|
And then, on top of all this, there's always the possibility—the probability, really—that the work will fail. An artist has to be willing to make some stuff that's seriously BAD—I mean, god-awful. Not on purpose, mind you. Again, my brother Andy, a full-time musician, says it as well as anyone: "You're never going to do anything really good unless you are willing to stink up the room--completely stink it up!" So sometimes you work up a rage, and then you work in a rage. Very few artists talk about this, but it's true. Other times you work in terror. When I find myself going out on a limb and getting scared, I will start talking to myself: "Do I have any idea what I'm doing? NO!!!" "Okay, then, let’s do it some more!" Sometimes things go bust—you ruin something good, and it's really not retrievable. The best you can do for now is shove it into a drawer for a month—or for a year or two or three. Or you have to cut out the part or parts that might be usable and pitch the rest. And off and on, if you are growing as an artist, your eye will change—your taste will change. I have several photo files labeled "Work Destroyed for No Good Reason." Almost every time I troll through my photo folders, I find new images to put in the "Destroyed" albums. Very discouraging. But you can't let it defeat you. After all, you chose this life, didn't you? You knew you were crazy, didn't you? But the truth is, Marly, on some level, we didn't choose this life—it chose us. But we did choose against common sense to listen to the inner call—and to obey it.
That obedience—and the discipline to work in its traces—is part of the ethic of art-making. When I look back on the last 20 years or so, I realize I became a visual artist basically on a hunch—a pretty good hunch, maybe, and obviously a better hunch than becoming a medievalist turned out to be. Or being a poet, for that matter. Because, as you said, Marly, in your answer to my question about the Artist-as-Fool in The Book of the Red King, the Fool—that is, the Artist--knows he's found his true home when "he becomes fruitful." For that, I found myself willing to step heedlessly off the cliff into thin air.
|The mess on Mary's studio floor.|