“Collage Variations,” an ArtsWorcester exhibit currently on display at the Hadley features the work of artist and art educator Lizzie Fortin, who spoke with us about her exhibit and overall artistic practice.
Lizzie Fortin’s dynamic and bold 8-by-8-inch mixed-media collages are all unique and eye-catching. A variety of bold shades, textures and images play against carefully selected and layered text that may come from various ephemera glued to the surface.
Her pieces evoke an intense sense of curiosity, with the desire to keep investigating closer to see if one can draw conclusions from the energetic and fractured contexts.
Fortin’s artwork is featured in the three-person exhibit “Collage Variations.” Ten of her incredible mixed-media collages are on display in the Hadley Building at 657 Main St., in a show with two other artists, Susan Black and Leonard Gerwick, exhibited by ArtsWorcester.
Fortin has worked in the Worcester Public Schools as an art educator for 12 years, and she is also a practicing artist. But Lizzie doesn’t take the term “practice” lightly. For the past two years, she has been creating a piece of art every single day. She creates each of her pieces in only 15 minutes.
Being a high school art educator is an integral part of Lizzie’s identity. During the school year, she will see hundreds of students each day, all of them hungry for guidance on their own artistic processes. It can be inspiring, and sometimes crucial, for students to see their teachers practicing the craft they teach.
Lizzie’s reputation among staff and students as an exceptional teacher far exceeds the humble responses that come along with her sweet personality.
“I just decided one day that it was hard to be honest with kids about being an artist when I wasn’t making my own art,” she said. “I needed to start walking my talk.”
For Lizzie, a ritual is a habit that becomes elevated through practice and intention. In 2016, she created a one-page journal entry along with a print every single morning. This began her ritual of art-making. Lizzie explains her current morning routine as such: “I get up at 4 a.m., I meditate, I write, and then I collage. I make one every single morning, no matter whether I am traveling, sick or how I am feeling. I am on number 211.”
Lizzie explains that she uses whatever materials she might have available to create her colorful, layered images. “It depends on the morning and how I feel,” she said.
“Sometimes my art is in response to work, politics or just about color.”
Very often, she says, one would have to do many sketches, and go through the process of entering the medium, whereas when she is making art every day, it becomes easier to enter the process. That helps her when she is ready to go and make a piece of art “for real.”
“I try to support my students in the idea that, depending on who you are, what day it is, or what media you are using, your practice may look different,” she said.
Julia Cameron, author of the self-help book titled “The Artist’s Way,” states: “Leap, and the net will appear.”
This was similar to how Lizzie felt when she submitted a proposal for an exhibit at ArtsWorcester, and she wasn’t expecting to get accepted. Then, with the help of some close mentors, she was able to choose just 10 pieces from a set of more than 200 works to be displayed.
Lizzie talks excitedly about how she brought her 25 favorite collages in to school for her students to see, discuss and ultimately to help her decide which 10 would be shown.
An educator who can expose their personal artwork and process to a body of students is able to connect deeply with the young adult psyche, teaching them about things such as constructive criticism, and in this case, the value of daily practice.
The “Collage Variations” show, which will have an opening reception on Sept. 8, features collage work by Lizzie Fortin, Susan Black and Leonard Gerwick. Lizzie’s work can also be viewed on her blog: https://lizziefortin.wordpress.com/.
Laura Marotta is a former Worcester Public Schools art teacher turned executive director and co-founder of Creative Hub Worcester.