words Zarah Cheng
All images are from Jay's portfolio.
Where are you from?
I’m from Long Island, New York.
Could you tell us more about the process involved in creating each piece, in terms of where you get your images, the planning stages, etc.?
The process really begins by stockpiling books and magazines that I find for cheap at thrift stores, second hand stores, on the street or are given to me. I never really stop collecting books for source material. From there, I’ll begin cutting out images that look interesting to me. Every piece begins with one particular image that grabs me. And then I build on and around that image. Each piece will go through different stages of development until I decide it’s ready to be glued down. That’s the simple version of things. I deliberate and obsess for hours and days, cutting and pasting and throwing away until I’m temporarily happy with the outcome. My process is chaotic and painful at times, but somehow has a rhythm to it all that puts me at ease.
I read that you have a background in writing and film cinematography. How has this influenced the way you create your collages?
I studied film and writing in college and both mediums have had an enormous impact on the way I approach collage. Depth and framing in cinematography directly relate to how I see the imagery within the four corners of each piece I create. And as far as writing goes, scribbling and rearranging words to create a sentence and tell a story is very similar to how I view cutting up paper and reconfiguring it with glue.
All of the titles for your works are cleverly quirky, albeit sometimes cryptic. Do the titles come to you as you’re developing the concept, or do they only come after the work is complete?
Thank you. It kind of varies. Many times I’ll think of a title and analyze it in my head obsessively while I create a piece. In that way, I feel that the title brings the piece to life, and the words become the imagery. Other times, I’ll create a piece that will lead me to feel a series of emotions. And what I end up feeling I’ll try to express in a pairing of words. Those words end up becoming the title of the piece.
There is a certain surrealist quality to many of your works. Are your images ever inspired by dreams?
I think indirectly it is. I have vivid dreams pretty regularly, and most of them are strange and confusing to me. I think that the confusion I experience in my sleep properly adds to the confusion I feel while I’m awake. And it’s that culmination of confusion and overall lack of certainty in my perspective that leads me to ask the many questions I do in my work.
Many contemporary collage artists opt to use digital tools to create their art. What is it about the classic method of using an X-acto knife, scissors, and glue that is most appealing to you?
I love everything about analog collage. There’s something special and pure about using only the imagery that is available to you, without any means to make duplicates or take shortcuts. There’s a spontaneity and risk to everything you do when you’re using only a scissor and a cutting knife, and to me that’s part of the excitement that creativity is based upon. Analog artists are forced to live with compromises and failures that digital artists might not encounter.
Brooklyn is known to have a thriving arts community. How would you describe growing as an artist in the city?
Brooklyn is great. There are amazing artists who live and work here, creating incredible, inspiring work every day. I belong to a collective here called The Brooklyn Collage Collective. It’s a group that’s comprised of some of my favorite collage artists. I’m regularly inspired by those guys, for sure. Plus, there are so many great galleries here to see amazing work at. Brooklyn is great. New York is great. It’s not difficult to find inspiration here. You walk out your front door and you’ll find something that moves you.
What creeps you out the most?
Good question. Crowds really creep me out. I get an overwhelming sense of danger when I find myself surrounded by people. The notion of being trampled to death has terrified me since I was a child. The more people there are, the harder it would be to escape if something went wrong. If there’s a large crowd, I can guarantee you I won’t be there.
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