Date: November 1, 2023 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Courtesy of Meikel Church |
Meikel Church’s first memories of the art of collage are not fond ones. “I remembered it from elementary and middle school, and I hated it,” he says with a laugh. The Conway native stumbled into the craft again in 2013 and this time, something stuck. He felt drawn to the process of using old magazine clippings and photographs to make something new. “My grandmother was a storyteller,” he says. “I like writing and telling stories, and I’ve tried to adapt that into the narrative of my visual art pieces.”
Through much of Meikel’s portfolio, the story he’s telling is autobiographical. Many pieces feature a little boy, whom the artist cuts from the pages of tattered magazines (“I’m addicted to old Life magazines,” he says) and pastes into strange and beautiful new settings. “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” is one of several the artist created this year about the experience of getting older. Here, a larger-than-life image of a boy is holding his head, clearly in distress, while an older man stands outside facing a sign pointing toward life. The piece poses questions about how we inhabit our former, younger selves: Do we knock on the door and go back inside every now and then? Or do we pass quietly by, remembering when we used to live there?
To start each of his collages, Meikel creates a canvas of blank squares cut from his seemingly endless stack of Life magazines, all different shades of white and cream and tea-stained brown layered to form a backdrop. Then he flips through the pages and clips any focal images that stand out to him. After coming up with a composition, he’ll sometimes use a soft-leaded pencil to shade, grounding his subjects in their new settings. “It’s not my full-time thing,” he says of his practice. “People have asked me why not, and the reason is because I love doing it so much. It’s kind of my therapy and a time for me just do something for myself.” Find Meikel’s work at the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts Store and Gallery 26 in Little Rock and at meikelchurchcollage.com
“I Don’t Live Here Anymore” by Meikel Church shown above. 18” x 24” paper collage and pencil