Mon 8 Aug 2011
A fascinating exhibition of collages by Elisabeth Ptak of Inverness opened Saturday with a reception at the Dance Palace. The exhibition will run through Sept. 15.
Elisabeth (at right), who is seen talking with Lynn Axelrod of Point Reyes Station during the reception, has an amazingly diverse resume. For almost 20 years while I published The Point Reyes Light, she wrote a weekly column titled Homeward Bound, which focused on small town life.
For 15 years she was the associate director of Marin Agricultural Land Trust before retiring in April 2010. She is the author and editor of Ranches & Rolling Hills—The Art of West Marin, A Land in Trust plus several other books. In addition, she has been an on-air essayist for KQED-FM.
Many of Elisabeth’s collages bear Dada-like names. Dada, in which titles often had little to do with subject matter, was an art movement that peaked between 1916 and 1924. Perhaps the best-known example is Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2. Without the title, the painting is basically a series of geometric shapes.
In Elisabeth’s collage Here Come the Elis!, the name can be found in the art, but the surprising title is, nonetheless, strongly reminiscent of Dada. However, when I mentioned this to Elisabeth, she was surprised.
The title of Pig in the Poppies, may be more conventional, but the incongruity of pink poppies towering over a small pig is Dadaistically jaring.
My favorite collage in the exhibition is Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, which is the French national motto. (It translates as “Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood” and was originally a motto of the French Revolution.) While all elements of the collage are instantly recognizable, the viewer is inevitably compelled to wonder: now just what is Elisabeth getting at here?
Elisabeth’s collage A Day in June borrows a boy playing a fife from Edouard Manet’s 1866 painting The Fifer. The boy is supposedly a member of the French Imperial Guard.
A Day in June could refer to many things, but some people who see the collage may be reminded of poet James Russell Lowell’s line: “What is so rare as a day in June?” The following line, by the way, is: “Then, if ever, come perfect days.” And that’s just what we’re enjoying at the moment.