• Juxtaposition

Dale Copeland
Assemblage of found objects.
Figure in white, old heating element, glass mosaic,
on cheese-cutter board and serving board
350 x 200 x 60mm

“Usually when I make things, I choose objects and put them together because they look and feel right.
And then they gradually tell me what meaning they're holding (for me anyway)
And that's how the titles happen.

This one had me puzzled.

Whenever I'm asked to define assemblage or collage, I always say 'the juxtaposition of disparate elements'. The putting-together of unlikely neighbours. For some assemblage artists it's to make a pattern or a picture. For me it always comes out as some sort of philosophical rant suggested by the interaction between the objects, with their uses and their past.

But for this one, nothing.

So I asked friends around the world to suggest a title. What a great response! Over 120 people responded and gave me 158 suggestions.

Responses told me much about the person and their interests. For those with a strong religious belief, the white clad figure was an angel, and the whole thing was a rapture, a conversation with Jesus, the fall of Lucifer, resurrection, the Calling, Heaven right next door to Hell, Ethereal connection, the French en prise which means taken up,
or, more cynically, 'Silent Night' with the attached explanation 'As an atheist, the attitude of the figurine suggests prayers to me. The jug heater looks blown to me. It won't work, Just like prayer. Silent Night.'

Feminists saw a "Goddess of the Worn Down", "Blessed Drudgery", and "Rising above domesticity" with the explanation " 'a woman who is ready to stand for herself, and break free or reach out from the convoluted and iron 'rules' that were created for not just her, but for all womankind. Not to mention that the rules were rusty and outdated!'

"Burnt-Out Embers of Kitchen Tea" with explanation "The bridal figure in white is screaming out against domesticity, prejudice and the archaic but enduring ritual of the New Zealand 'kitchen Tea'. She's crying out against misogyny, prejudice, and maybe the Church (with the stained glass window) from her quarter acre cheeseboard of life'. And a tongue-in-cheek suggestion from the other side of that argument: "morning tea's ready, come and get me".

Of those who concentrated on what the hands were expressing many saw it as someone calling out - "Call of Desperation" (that one came from an environmentalist), "hear ye, hear ye", "Cry from afar" and "I'm all plugged in, can you hear me now?". And a martial artist suggested "microcosmic orbit" with the explanation 'It's a move we do in qigong for grounding and going forth and we look just like this, ignoring the difficulties around us.'

Some saw it as listening: - "Waiting for the Music", "Deafening noise", "Stop the Noise!"

Some, relating to the figure alone, took it personally, as in "Our wedding dilemma", "I Do", "Radiant", and "Mirror Mirror on the board l'm the fairest of them all".

Only two were influenced by the figure's complete absence of facial features: "angel blinded by constructivism", and "Faceless, yet facing adversity" with this explanation given 'On social media, everyone is faceless. While an uncertain future faces all of us, social media allows us to not only hide from ourselves and our individual fears but from the collective fears of society, living with Alice down the rabbit hole of madness.'

Those who also concentrated on the old heating element sent me "welcoming the unseen energy", "She was electrified", "too close to the fire", "burnt offering", "I'm in my element here", "No connection, HotStuff", "Shadows of Old Sparky", "Heat Wave", "The boiling pot/frog...climate change" and "Dancing with an old flame".

This is just a sample - there were so many more good suggestions. But I end with some which embody humour as well as thought. "Oops we have to go back . . . I think I left the stove on", "Oh for a fire and a billy of water" with explanatory note 'Relating to our dependency on technology and the system to provide for us, until something blows and we are stuffed', "I left it upstairs!", and "I tried the reboot, it didn't work".

I am grateful to all those who sent suggested titles. You have reinforced my conviction that the viewer's own mind and experience are as valid a path to interpretation as the label in the art gallery.
Thank you.”

Dale Copeland describes herself as a mathematician-turned-artist. The one time head of a college maths and physics department and freelance computer programmer, Copeland, at the age of forty-three opted for a new lifestyle devoted to art and motherhood. She is now a 6th Dan black belt in Taekwon-Do and is still training regularly. Dale has often been referred to as the back bone of the Taranaki arts community, she is currently the driving force behind the artist collective called Virtual TART which shows their work online through the Virtual TART site www.tart.co.nz. In 2012 Dale was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the arts. Dale lives at Puniho with painter Paul Hutchinson.


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