Tiny Talks is an interview series with Tiny Spoon’s talented contributors. This week we spoke with Laura Bell and Ian Ganassi from our seventh issue, Collaboration! They completed our interview with each other virtually over Zoom.
Tiny Spoon: What called you to collaborate and what was that process like?
Laura: Our ongoing collaborative collage series, “The Corpses,” was Ian’s idea. He’s a poet who lives in New Haven, Connecticut, and we met as artists-in-residence at the Millay Colony. Some years after we’d been at the residency together, he initiated the project, thinking it would be interesting for a poet and a painter to collaborate. It was basically along the lines of: I’ll send you something, you do something to it and send it back to me. (I live in NYC.)
Ian mailed me an unfinished poem on a page stained with coffee rings, but I didn’t act on it right away, it may have been a year or so before I came across the page again, made some moves, and sent it back to him. The evolution was pretty quick after that, and soon we were mailing multiple pieces back and forth. What started out as a possible short-term project between us has become a long-running series of more than a decade, with 300 pieces and counting.
Tiny Spoon: Why do you create?
Laura: It’s just the best way of interpreting, and living in, the world.
Tiny Spoon: Where do you find most of your inspiration? When do you feel most inspired?
Laura: We were both already working with found materials—Ian with found text in his poems and me with images and found objects in my paintings and mixed-media pieces on paper. So the collage sensibility was already part of our individual practices. What we have found is that the habit of looking for materials everywhere we go has turned the whole world into material, whether it be out on the street or anywhere else we find ourselves; we have even found collage materials in a hospital room.
Ian: The Corpses turned us into scavengers. We tried to get the whole world into them.
TS: What is your dream project?
Laura: We have been showing and publishing pieces from the series in groups from 3 to 30, and what we would like now is to find a space to put up 200 or more pieces. There are often repetitions of text and images from piece to piece over the years, and we imagine that a really large group, covering every wall, would create a terrific resonance of echoes and relationships.
TS: Do you have any current projects that you are working on that you would like to share?
Laura: Right now, Ian is awaiting the publication of his second book of poetry, by MadHat Press, True for the Moment. His previous book-length poetry collection, Mean Numbers, published in 2016, had as its cover one of our collaborative collages, “Natural Equation.” And I am currently arranging to hold a collage workshop in my Bronx neighborhood as part of a grant I received from the Bronx Council for the Arts, where I will talk about and show images from our series, as well as having the group create their own collages.
TS: What book, artwork, music, etc., would you recommend to others?
Laura: I am a devotee of Joseph Cornell’s assemblage boxes, which captured a transcendent poetry, often with dime-store finds. He is really a found-art icon.
Ian: John Ashbery’s Selected Poems, because Ashbery is “the supreme user of collage in poetry.”