Since the founding of the Aver Collective, we've been hard at work, organizing promotional photo shoots and putting the finishing touches on each of the individual pieces that were featured in our zine.  We also spent a good deal of time debating the look and layout of said zine.  You see, when you get seven strong willed, aesthetically-minded artists together on a single project, passions can run high, leading to long, chess-like email chain debates.  What we haven't gotten to do is actually get together and work on art as a group.  So, a few weeks ago, I turned on my computer and created a Facebook event: collage night at my house for the members of the collective.  

My family has a huge collection of National Geographics, so I brought a couple stacks of those; my wife brought a few little Disney/Pixar books home from her work; and best of all, I picked up some musty old Time Life science books from the San Francisco Public Library book sale at Fort Mason, full of hand tinted photos and gorgeous illustrations of the natural world, in all of its strange glory.  

Including myself, an impressive 5 out of 7 members of our busy brotherhood actually made it to my house.  Unfortunately, due to their schedules, they came more or less in separate shifts throughout the night.  First to arrive was JoJo, who came prepared to work on a project she had already conceived: she would transform a cute but staid photo of herself and her boyfriend into something that she'd be more excited to hang on her wall.  Looking through the Time Life books, she quickly decided to remove the backdrop of the photo completely, placing herself and significant other onto a dense backdrop of trees made from different images, so that your perspective and proportion seem to shift slightly as you move your eyes from one side of the picture to the other.  Then, she replaced the drinks in their hands with some brightly colored, magical-looking toadstools.  Now it looks like she was invited into a fairy ring to drink the dew off of mushrooms while the jungle foliage enveloped her and her date.


With the leftover bits, and using some elements that were too large, graphic, or thematically incoherent to make it into her first work, she crafted this surreal beauty ad from an uber-artsy, alternate, animal-dominated dimension:

Just before JoJo had to leave, Ty arrived.  He did not have a project prepared, and unfortunately, he couldn't stay long enough to finish anything.  All he had time to do was cut out about 4 images, most of them rectangular:

                                                                                         His total output.

I know Ty's digital design work pretty well, and I was very curious about what he would create in this more primitive mode.  Apparently, he used to be in a collage club back in his home state of New Jersey, so he has experience.  We'll definitely have to plan another collage night to get some good work out of him.

After Ty's brief stay, Nella and Colin arrived, with a fat stack of BL!SSS surf+art magazines in tow.  They didn't have any projects prepared, but got right to work, painstakingly poring through piles of materials for inspiration.  

                                                                                     Pictured: Inspiration.

I should also mention that one of the magazines we had on hand was the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Fine Arts magazine, and this particular issue actually featured a photo of Aver's own Nella Ocampo!  Of course, this created an incredible opportunity for Nella's likeness to be used in a collage, becoming one with her own art.  We did cut her out, but instead of using her in a collage, we just played around with her cutout like she was a Honey I Shrunk the Kids paper doll.  

You might assume from looking at the photo that Nella was asked to swallow broken glass just before she smiled; however, that's not the case.  It's only that she had to be photographed in her work uniform--all black, with a fuzzy, Cookie Monster-blue fleece vest--instead of one of her own fashion-forward ensembles.

Colin ended up with two really cool collages: one very simple piece, where he added red eyes to an existing photo spread, casting a new, malevolent mood over the image, and a more complex mosaic of bold patterns and geometric pop art imagery.

Nella also went big, with a wildly textured piece, containing waves, words, and spacey imagery.  Everything on the page looks like it's about to slide into a new position on top of the other images, making the eclipse diagram that slices through the piece deliciously apropos.   

As for myself, I came up with a concept before anyone else arrived, based on one of the books my wife brought home: a Disney Princess Halloween story.  Inspired by the spooky atmosphere and awkward staging of the illustrations, I cut out some characters on one page, glued some bits to another, and added a bit of red colored pencil to create this:

One of the reasons I was most excited to join this collective was because I loved the idea of being part of a community of artists who work together, bounce ideas off of each other, challenge each other, and inspire each other.  I know I really benefit from showing people my works in progress, absorbing praise and criticism, and keeping me from becoming too obsessive over the details that don't matter, and more focussed on the bigger picture: the final product.  We didn't all get to spend as much time together as I hoped we might, but working together with the other members of the collective was exactly what I hoped it would be.  

Travis White