An Interview with Fred Free
Boston based artist, Fred Free is a paper based artist bringing together found images and textures to create traditional collage nostalgic in nature. Featured in Kolaj mag, ldN mag and Gestalten's Cutting Edges, Free's work is about purposeful randomness, overlooked fragments, figments of imagination, invented memories, un-identification, disconnects and reconnects, empty spaces and love all between glue and paper.
"Please start by telling us a bit about you?"
I was always making art as a kid and then added designing buildings to my interests in eighth grade so I eventually went to Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and got degrees in fine arts and architecture. I worked in the field of architecture for over a decade both designing and illustrating while working on collage and photo-books for myself. At one point I realised that I preferred the collage and book-work and have been doing that as my main focus for almost twenty-five years.
"That's a brilliant achievement to have such dedication to the art form."
There were several moments along the way that pushed me into that direction, but one truly odd one was a dream I had in which I went into my childhood house and most of the contents inside the place had been subtly transformed through graphic and material alteration. I woke up blown away and inspired even more to work in collage.
"Dreams often feel like many random elements brought together harmoniously, a lot like a collage. Where do you source your images and what are you looking for when finding materials to create collages?"
For the most part, my collage material comes from searching for or just stumbling upon random items at estate and library sales, the street, and ebay. I prefer items that have some age to them - preferably produced in the 50s through 80s. It's mostly an aesthetic thing, but working with subject matter that takes me back to my youth makes it personal as well.
"Your work does feel very nostalgic through the use of aged textures. Tell us a little bit about the themes of your work, what do you wish to convey?"
For the last three years, the biggest theme in my work is the current political landscape, but historically I don't look to themes when making collages. They do creep in though - loss, love, gender roles, individualism, group thinking, the universe, the mundane, time, and collage itself.
In the end I'm generally not looking to convey specific things, but to act as a launching pad for the viewer's own ideas and imagination.
"That's one of the reasons we love your work, it's aligned with our belief that an image can mean many things and be created in many ways. Nothing is literal and everything is open ended. What makes you want to create?"
The things I find, materials I work with, music, weather, walking, sounds, travel, family, news, absurdities, trivial things, hunger, happiness, randomness, lists.
"Your images feel very authentic with the use of scrap paper, tape, paint, even drawings in your collage - tell us more about how you construct your pieces?"
Almost every piece is a result of looking through materials, cutting things out that inspire me that day (usually for no obvious reason) piling them on my table, finding a base, and then gluing down one cut out piece at a time until I'm satisfied that it's done. No pre-arranging and no undoing. It's about the process of getting there as much if not more than the result itself. I've always likened it to taking an unplanned random road trip or playing free-form jazz and just enjoying the ride/vibe.
"Your process reflects the end result, random objects and shapes brought together harmoniously. How did you get started with collage? What does collage give you that Photography doesn't?"
I can't recall when I first got interested in collage, but I took a couple of collage classes at RISD and just tucked away my ideas as I concentrated on architecture for awhile. However, it was after I found a bunch of old medical slides in the trashcan of my then girlfriend's apartment house laundry room, that I rekindled my interest. With those slides I started making tiny collages onto the transparencies and had them printed. After that I started cutting up my own photo prints and from there began using other printed matter. My interest took off after that. For me, collage is a process of putting things together that were never meant to be together and coming up with something that never existed before. I take photos to document what already exists so I don't forget that it did.