My Life is About Glue

I can be very philosophical about glue. In many ways my life is about glue. I like to take things apart and put them back together (but, if the intention is for things to stay together, then it is very important that they stick and stay).

For me, art has always been about process and materiality as much as it is about concept and creativity, and all my works are ultimately collages. In terms of how it works, why it works, and when it doesn’t work – why not – the issue comes back to glue.

I began to think about glue when I was a junior in high school, and learning about chemical valences (the atomic structure of molecules) and how things get to stick to each other. I was an art major but was also intrigued with science.

In college I remember being really upset about a 3D paper project at Syracuse University (School of Art) because the work totally fell apart – no doubt because I was using the wrong glue. My professor didn’t care that the glue didn’t hold the project together. But I cared that everything was a pile of papers on the floor.

Since 1985 I’ve devoted myself almost exclusively to collage, which is 2D. (Note: If the work is 3D it’s called assemblage).

I work with PVA glue. My paper media includes appropriated magazine papers and hand-made imported papers. I hand-paint and hand-tear all my collage papers, including the appropriated papers. I love creating with paper and gluing paper to paper.

Since 1990 I have been using white PVA glue formulated specifically for paper-to-paper bonding. It will not crack or become brittle in a wide range of temperatures.

I know many artists use acrylic medium and even acrylic paint to embed collage materials. I wouldn’t use these products as glues because they don’t hold up. Things fall off. I know this from early experience.

Glue factors I consider important are: the glue should be pH neutral, be flexible, dry clear, be non-toxic, non-yellowing, and not interfere chemically over time with the collage materials or substrate.

In 1996 I took an extraordinary workshop in PhotoShop® and learned to build and move images in layers, and “glue” everything down electronically. I have a lot of fun with digital collage as a concept, and love to work on the computer to create and print new collage media.

The most recent works are collage paintings on panel, canvas and paper (framed in wood, glazed in Plexiglas®). I am painting papers, layering colors, adding textures and mixing things up, and playing in mixed media.

I work with acrylic paints and a palette knife; sometimes with a brush. Some collages include color copier papers reproduced from painted papers, and many of my collage papers are drawings embellished with ink, oil,wax, crayon and pencil.

All my work is layered, abstract, about color, and 2D. All the pieces touch or overlap. Everything is connected and everything lies flat. Many people peek up close to see how many painted papers are combined.

For a free tutorial on my collage process see Painting with Paper.

Nancy Egol Nikkal