• Folt Bolt

Elsah Cort


For a long time I’ve been drawn to collage. I like the mixing of images and media. I originally started out using magazine cutouts, blended with tissue paper scraps, to make collage. Twenty-five years ago, I was organizing a group collage exhibit at an art gallery I co-owned. A local artist, Aranga Firstman, brought in several collages she had made on a computer, layering photos of her paintings with words. At the time, I was intensely repelled by computers, and they were very expensive back then. I had sworn I would never give in to that dehumanizing technology. But, when I saw her collages, I felt a switch go off in my head—a major change of mind. I knew I was going to have to embrace the computer age and dive into this daunting technology.

'Life Weaves Itself'

I bought my first Apple computer in 1996. I spent years acquiring needed skills, making several websites from scratch, like one for my guest cottage that I have offered for thirty-one years as a bed and breakfast (now a vacation rental) for visitors coming to nearby Sequoia National Park. I organized and promoted a local art studio tour for twenty-two years, making a website each year and creating the guidebooks using the software in Adobe Creative Suite. I became quite adept with computers, but not when it came to art-making.

It was not until almost twenty years after my big moment of changing my mind about computers that I finally overcame my fearful reluctance with Photoshop. A few years ago, with the help of another accomplished artist who makes amazing digital collage-paintings, Robert Mertens, I broke the ice and learned some basic skills using this software. I began to play with it and now I am drawn in more and more, even though I still don’t know how to use it as an expert. The fear is gone, replaced by fun and curiosity.

'Handmade'

'I Live Here'

I first heard the Sanskrit word “mandala” (meaning sacred circle, a container of essence) over thirty years ago when I studied with a spiritual school called Niscience. Part of the practices included making mandalas for contemplation and inspiration. I originally started making them with colored pencils, progressing to watercolor pencils, gel pens and even acrylic paint on canvas. I have many hundreds of personal, hand-made mandalas in my collection. The digital mandalas started showing up a few years ago. I don’t plan out my mandalas. The only constraint is that a circle shows up somewhere. I allow the mandala to uncover itself. I may have over 200 photoshop layers that come and go before the final version says to me, “I’m done”. Lately, I have been experimenting with ways of printing them. I use archival paper to print them as giclee prints with an Epson printer. I also have printed them on fabric and directly to glass. I hand-embellish some of the prints. I made Christmas ornaments from the fabric ones, embroidering them (I had not done embroidery since my twenties.) I made a mandala calendar for 2017 and have plans to continue this practice for 2018. The mandalas seem to want to show up in many ways.

'The Bliss Trail'

'Revolution'

'Lucid Dream'

'Guardian'

'Emerald Isle'

'Ahimsa'

'All Leaves Matter'

Mandalas, both as a meditative practice and an art form, can be ways to embrace the whole within a circle. We live on a powerful, yet finite, mandala—the earth itself. My deepest hope for people looking at my mandalas is that they will want to draw a circle for themselves and see what shows up…not as an artist but as the divine spirit that breathes via their human form.

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#mandalas #collage #unitedstates #viola

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