This past week I had the pleasure of speaking with collage artist Haley Mortin who has interesting things to say about the meeting points of psychology and art, and how to draw inspiration from a myriad of sources. She showed with the Fridge Door Gallery this past fall with collages made from library archive materials and is showing with us again this semester with three collages. Check out her work at Perceptions / Perspectives and read her perspective on being an artist below.
BC: Where are you from originally?
HM: Peterborough, Ontario which is kind of close to Toronto, but it’s a small town. Pretty rural.
BC: Does that have any part in your art practice?
HM: It had a really surprisingly present art scene that had a lot of opportunities for students to show their work. So, I started getting involved with stuff then. I took a lot of art classes in high school and there was a community kind of built through that as well. What else? Just like a really big and open art presence for such a small town which is really cool.
BC: Cool. So how long have you been an artist?
HM: Well, both of my parents are artists so it kind of spurred from that and I just kind of would follow in their footsteps.
BC: So, as long as you can remember?
HM: [laughs] As long as I can remember, yeah!
BC: What pushed you towards your preferred medium and what is your preferred medium?
HM: My preferred medium is collage. Um, I think it comes from that I was initially really interested in photography, but I found that I preferred and liked the outcome of controlling cutting up and putting together things, seeing what sort of new images you could create with what you’re given already. I thought that was kind of cool. And then I started experimenting with overlaying paint and stuff.
BC: Where do you get your inspiration for a piece, a specific subject or image, or personal experience, music, things like that, things you study?
HM: Yeah I feel like there’s one of two ways it will go. It’s like either I’ll find an image and then build something around that, usually it’s of a person and I’ll just sort of like… the photograph and what’s going on in the photograph, and I’ll experiment with relocating it and adding other elements to it and seeing how that impacts it. With a lot of my work I tend to usually block out the faces of people I’m working on, the subjects of the photographs because I just feel like having them there is too personal and I feel like I have more ownership of the image if I block them out [laughs]. What else? Yeah, or a lot of inspiration comes from this Adult Swim program called “Off the Air” which is sort of like this huge mess of music and art, and it is kind of a collage onto itself of animation and music and visuals. I usually just keep that on in the background when I’m working. It’s just like a visual feast, you know? There’s so much going on.
Check it out here:
BC: What are your main influences or favorite artists? Or even a movement?
HM: Oh, Dadaist for sure. Like, early Dadaist art and the sort of collages that were coming out of that time period were super cool. Um, in terms of current stuff, I just follow a lot of people on Instagram that are collage artists and they’re doing some cool stuff.
BC: Is there, because I know you study Art History, right, as your minor, are there periods or classes that you like or is that part of something related to your art practice?
HM: I would actually say that I’m more influences by Psychology classes that I take for sure. Psychology is my major and then I’m minoring in Behavioral Science which is more Psychology stuff and then Art History.
BC: Would you say that has any impact too?
HM: Yeah, I think it all kind of goes together. I guess topics of cognition and theory of mind stuff has always been really interesting to me. I feel like with collaging you can externalize those more abstract things, those more abstract concepts that are maybe harder to describe scientifically, or those more nebulous experiences that can’t be documented by psychologists or scientists alike. I think there’s a big aim right now in Psych to try and quantify everything, and try and document everything, but there’s still this whole psychoanalytic thing where things are more abstract and I find it interesting, the overlap.
BC: That’s so interesting! Makes a lot of sense.
HM: Oh, thanks! I’m glad it does!
BC: Are you involved with other things at McGill? Does any of that stuff have an impact?
HM: I volunteer at a Psych lab and with mental health initiatives and stuff like that. I also work at the library. Yeah, a lot of my materials are from when in the summer, they [the library] would just be giving out free stuff that they just felt like they didn’t need to archive anymore. So, there was a lot of old textbooks and a lot of old photojournalism and like really cool stuff that they were just otherwise going to throw out so I just picked up bundles of those that I still work from so I have a perfect stockpile. So, yeah, working at the library probably had an influence [laughs]. I do archiving there as well which is kind of really fun, I love it.
BC: So what effect do you seek to produce on the viewer of your work? Or is it more that creating is the point?
HM: Uh, ooo that’s a good question. Um… I guess in the beginning maybe I was really just doing it for myself just because it was fun and I like doing fun little collages, but then my friends started asking for copies and then I was like, “Oh, people are going to look at this.” So, then I started putting more thought into it I guess. I started really thinking about what I was making or what I was trying to say. So that came after I guess and I was initially doing it for myself, if that makes sense.
BC: Do you maybe want to talk about the art that [was] in the vernissage?
HM: I just sort of liked the repeated shapes and when I am going through all those archives and usually how I work is I’ll look through things and I’ll cut out things that I think look really interesting and after that I’ll put two and two together. So, I’ll just sort of see forms that look similar and I think compliment each other. Like, for instance the one with the red sort of how the veins in the hands and the sort of lines of the trees are really similar and are both kind of jagged and have this sort of fluid motion to them that I emphasize with the white. So with those, it is finding complementary forms and seeing what happens if you try to put them together.