Hoboken-based Kira E Wong
is an architect, muralist, and collage artist. My work often explores varying topics in popular culture using familiar brands, logos, and ephemera. I use original, found imagery from vintage magazines and publications - primarily LIFE and The Saturday Evening Post - dating back to the 1930’s to the 1960’s. My collages are historical and cultural mashups created with a contemporary perspective.
Paper is not dead.
Collage is such an important medium because the materials come with an inherent history. It’s the texture of the paper and the number of fingers that have flipped the same page. It’s the printed photographs that depict love and natural disasters with same level of blunt awe. Most of the materials that I use are twice my age - they have lived and seen so much more than I could ever imagine, and I want that celebrate that in my work.
Collage art is often considered a medium for quick-studies, however, all of my images and materials are the original pages from vintage magazines, and it often takes several weeks to find all of the different pieces that will fit together correctly in a layout. Therefore, the only time you will see duplicates is if I have duplicates of an Issue or advertisement. Once I find the right imagery, I then carefully hand-cut each piece with an X-acto knife. The pages are often brittle from old age, and I have to work very meticulously to not rip or waste the image because it's "one-of-a-kind". I work full-time as an Architect during the day, and spend most of my nights collaging until the early hours of the morning.
In my work, I examine existing imagery and figuring out what else the images are trying to say. The material comes from a time when gender and racial stereotypes were prevalent in advertising and media. I try to manipulate the old headlines and catch-phrases, so they are understood in irony.
Once I understand the overall theme of a piece, I then look for elements that respond to that theme. As I flip through old magazines, certain words and images begin to form a conversation around this theme until eventually, the entire piece is flushed out. I try to incorporate not only the image, but also the negative leftover page that it came from. I often find that the negative allows me to tell more of the story because it becomes a viewfinder.
I am also interested in layering text and images to a point where you can’t immediately see where the original advertisement stopped/started. I will cover up parts of phrases to create a poem of sorts or I’ll reduce words down to letters to break up large areas of color. It’s up to the viewer to lean in read the partially hidden recipe cards or disclaimer notes and figure out how they are related to the piece. The title of the work is also very important to me; and I heavily rely on it to clue in the viewer on what details to look out for.
I sign my work in two places – my initials are on the front and my full signature is located on the back. My initials are surrounded by an architectural drawing Elevation symbol because my interest in collage began my junior year of architectural school and my approach to design has strong spatial influences. I sign my murals with this same signature, but it’s painted in red to resemble a Chinese chop mark/seal and pay tribute to my multi-cultural background.
One of the most important aspects of recording my process for social media is to re-introduce the idea of making with your hands. I want people to reach out to me with questions about making their own artwork because Collage is, and always should be, accessible to all. In order to do this, purchasing original artwork and prints helps me continue my mission to foster this community of artists and art enthusiasts. My prints are made in my studio using high quality ink and printed on thick professional-grade paper. Each print is shipped flat and protected to ensure that you will receive artwork without any creases or marks. I sign and date each piece on the front and back.