Marissa Raglin holds free drop-in collage workshops through September at Skirvin Hilton Hotel

Collage artist Marissa Raglin has been Skirvin Hilton Hotel’s artist-in residence since October. (Image provided)
Image provided
Collage artist Marissa Raglin has been Skirvin Hilton Hotel’s artist-in residence since October.

Paper clippings of octopi, monkeys, plants, fruits, vegetables and butterflies sit in a tray of loose bits on Marissa Raglin’s studio table. At some point in time, someone who came to visit the collage artist during her Skirvin Hilton Hotel residency must have deemed each scrapped image as interesting or useful. But for whatever reason — change of heart, mind slip, time constraints — visitors to the hotel’s free Cut & Paste workshop often leave without using all the pictures they’ve cut from Raglin’s large available collection of old book and periodical pages.

Raglin could just as easily have thrown away these bits of paper. But writing off any image as unneeded excess goes against the collage mentality. She saves past clippings for use by other guests at another time.

“I don’t really like throwing things away,” Raglin said during a recent Oklahoma Gazette interview. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed.”

The studio, located on the historic hotel’s ground floor, includes shelves stocked with vintage illustrated nature, lifestyle and children’s publications. Bins of old pages Raglin has found and filed away for future use sit in a corner.

Raglin is Skirvin’s sixth artist-in-residence and the first collagist to be given the yearlong honor. Her residency includes the free Cut & Paste program, in which she guides Skirvin guests and visitors through the process of creating their own collage postcards with provided materials.

The studio resides in Skirvin’s lobby and is open for drop-ins 2-7 p.m. Monday-Friday and 1-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. No advance reservation is necessary. All guest postcards are scanned and chronicled on Raglin’s website

Raglin’s residency began in October and lasts through the end of this September. She believes part of the reason she was selected as artist-in-residence — joining past honorees Romy Owens, Arsenio Corbishley, Kerri Shadid, Gayle Curry and Mike Wimmer — is the interactive element of her work. Anyone with a desire to make a postcard can come in and do it, and Raglin is more than happy to guide guests.

“I enjoy the conversations that come about as they’re working on something,” she said.

There is no typical Cut & Paste session. Raglin has noticed each session is as distinct as the conglomeration of images composed by each guest. And she likes it that way.

“I’ve had people come in and take about 15 minutes and then I’ve had someone stay as long as three hours,” she said. “And I love it; I get to know them.”

Artistic refreshment

Raglin developed a passion for art and painting at a young age. She carried her art pursuits through high school and eventually to college at Oklahoma Baptist University, where she focused on studio art and art therapy with the intention of becoming an art therapist.

Her college art pursuits went well, but after graduating in 2012, Raglin faced a new problem for the first time. Her work stalled without assignments and the creative constraints imposed by her instructors.

“I was looking at a blank canvas and I didn’t have that inspiration,” she said.

In search of a solution to her creative block, Raglin read a book by Danielle Krysa, known for her blog The Jealous Curator. The book interviewed several artists about what they did when they were at a creative impasse, and Raglin became particularly interested in the common idea of switching mediums. She knew she needed to find an art form she could enjoy just picking up for fun.

Raglin was drawn to collage because she loves placemaking and focusing on the design basics within the medium. She loves the idea of taking images with their own intended context and meaning and giving them new life in her own work.

“They have things that are hidden and they’re tied to,” she said, “and I’m removing them from that atmosphere and placing them in another.”

"Nest I” from Marissa Raglin’s Nesting series (Image provided)
Image provided
"Nest I” from Marissa Raglin’s Nesting series

Repurposed paper

The first book Raglin took images from was the 1984 illustrated hardbound ABC’s of Nature: A Family Answer Book. The artist has always been drawn to vintage imagery and paper.

Things are printed differently now than they were years ago, Raglin said. Ink tones were different, with more pastel hues. The paper was far more delicate.

“If you just look at something the wrong way it’s going to tear,” she said.

These ethereal qualities were all things she liked and wanted represented in her own work. She likes working with older books, even if it makes extraction more difficult.

In the past, she would have to buy her own materials at discount bookstores. But as her reputation as a collage artist has grown among family, friends and the art community, she no longer finds herself in short supply of source material.

“I’m getting books now for birthday presents, Christmas presents,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, I know what she’d like.’”

Raglin sometimes tears up at the things people give to her, which have included personal postcard collections and family treasures. Working with images that she knows have meant something dear to another person adds sacred purpose to her work.

“For me, rather than being stored on a shelf or having your postcard collection underneath your bed, it’s now a work of art,” she said. “It’s reinterpreted. You can see it.”

Deep meaning

As elaborate and rooted in symbolic meaning as Raglin’s collages can be, her medium of choice is not one uniformly found across the nation’s art galleries. Unreserved acceptance of her work can sometimes be hard to come across.

Raglin sometimes senses that viewers silently question the validity of her work as art, despite the great amount of thought that goes into the placement of each image and the respect given to the basic principles of design.

“No one has ever really told me that, but it’s a feeling I have,” she said. “I feel like I have to work a little harder with this medium.”

The artist’s most recent works, which she calls her Nesting series, focus on repurposing old depictions of ideal womanhood to fit more open-minded and modern views.

“The narrative I’m working with, I feel like, is very timely: the role of a woman in the workplace, at home and as a mother,” Raglin said. “And how fluid that role is. But in these domesticated woman advertisements, I’m finding it’s frustrating and appalling.”

In one of her pieces, Raglin included an old advertisement with words reading, “Lipstick can give a man ideas.”

“But what about my ideas?” Raglin said. “I wear lipstick because that’s the way I want to look, not to give men ideas.”

Some collage art is known for surface-level appeal, designed more for spreadability across social media than as an engaging and provocative piece of gallery art. Raglin wants to use her work to challenge existing conceptions.

“With the medium, I want to make sure the hidden narrative in it comes forward in some way,” she said. “It’s not just likable, clickable art.”


Print headline: Cut above; Artist-in-residence Marissa Raglin holds free drop-in collage workshops through September at Skirvin Hilton Hotel.

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