Millions and millions of images, so little time

Eva Lake collage show
May 2nd – 31rd
White Gallery
Reception, Friday, May 3, 6 p.m.

We city folk are flooded with more images than we know what to do with. Our minds have learned to filter most of them out, but sometimes you have to gouge your eyeballs and ask, “What does it all mean?” To play it safe, assume they mean nothing. For kicks, make them mean whatever you want them to.

Collage artist Eva Lake takes a few of the world’s millions of images and rearranges them her own way. “I’m making my own propaganda,” said the anarchist who insists on being a creator, not a follower. Surrounded by pop art as a kid and an admirer of Dada and the surrealists, Lake’s been rearranging images since the ’70s. She has created and shown art in New York, San Francisco and London. She was putting on shows and making punk-rock flyers and ‘zines at the genre’s birth. She’s seen a few images.

Her show, opening this Friday with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. at Portland State’s White Gallery, is her first since the ’80s and contains collages dating back as far.

Her collages aren’t busy and she utilizes color and composition well. In “Regenerate,” an encased yellow flower sits in a sea of red and blue geometric shapes and urban landscapes. Other pieces are surreal and richly colored landscapes mixed with juxtapositions of war and peace, death and life. Some interpretations are obvious, as in “war is not,” that uses multicolored posters that read “war is not healthy for children.” On top of this repeated message a bomber flies and children play soccer on a ravaged street. Many pieces welcome multiple interpretations and invite the viewers to engage themselves, which is exactly what Lake wants: “I want something that’s got more of an open door, a place for the viewer to complete the piece.”

She describes her artistic approach rather politically: “I don’t want to be creating this ‘us and them’ situation, I don’t like art that just rants and raves to you and talks down to you.”

She says that over the years her focus has gone from the macro-political themes to more personal ones. “You set yourself up for a huge disappointment when you think there’s this huge ‘we.’ The scene is not the same today, there’s a big difference between being a creator and a follower.” This goes for all scenes, and her words ring true. “It’s not new when it’s got a name and all these people like it and want to be it. At some point I felt like the ultimate revolution was a personal, spiritual revolution.”

Unlike the urban image bombast, Lake’s rearranged images are accessible and interesting. Take a stroll through the White Gallery sometime this May. You won’t gouge out your eyeballs, but you may ask yourself, “Hey Self, what does it all mean?” Then make something up.