Rachel Freeman thinks a lot about the processes that go into her collages. She can dissect the time and energy needed to create a piece and the sources from which her images originate. But despite all this contemplation, the thing that most fascinates her and the point she wants viewers to get is that art is also a mystery. It uses subconscious ideas and skills, and because of that, it's almost impossible to be completely analytical about it.
"It is a mysterious process," Freeman says. "From whatever I want to do, I'll then go along and it ends up not coming out that way. Another image evolves. Another part of the mind is activated when I work on art."
She's not just talking about taking creative license with an art piece. Instead, Freeman has noticed that often secondary images take shape within the original. When she traces her thoughts and experiences, she discovers that it's not just a coincidence, but that the subtle image also comments on what is taking place during her life at that moment.
Her evocative work is on display now through Aug. 15 at Milton's Coffee and Wine, 920 Mass.
Freeman, who is an assistant research professor at Kansas University, took up collage making as a way to unwind after a busy day of teaching and working on her dissertation five years ago.
"After all day in class analyzing data, I wanted something different. I'd do it as a way to relax as I watched TV," she says.
It was during an art class that an instructor pointed out the secondary, unplanned images in the material. Freeman actually got so into the idea that during her dissertation defense she used collage art as part of the presentation. She's since gone on to display her work in Lawrence galleries and in juried shows.
Collage assemblage is a very hands-on process. Freeman uses a glossy, medium varnish to seal the base, overlaying it with paper, which she then shapes into the desired impressions. She gets her original ideas from photographs and magazine images, but is also influenced by everything from her pet rabbit to goddess imagery. She then caps it off by using a variety of colors from blues and greens to browns.
The way Freeman explains it, it's not left to chance, but her collage art is based upon her own research involving quantum physics: the science of chaos and self-organizing systems. Her belief is that the science is more than compatible with her artistic interests, and that all of this combines to influence her work. Her art ends up telling stories, reflecting archetypal imagery and conveying deeper meanings.
Freeman starts with an idea, then uses color to sharpen it. While creating, she usually finds it taking another form. At first she thought it was accidental, but her research has given her a new perspective, and she's come to the conclusion that both the conscious and unconscious merge when an artist creates a piece. Within that frame, other images can emerge, not only to the artist, but to the viewer.
"I think people take what they want out of it," she says. "I've seen a person take one of my pieces and turn it upside down, and that was what was right for them. Sometimes their interpretation makes something clearer for me. It's all about perspective. It jumps out at people in different ways. It's an individual thing."