Attention adult artists, makers of all stripes and anyone collage-curious! Collagist Roxana Alger Geffen is giving a workshop at the Cornwall Library on August 5. Bring scraps from your daily existence—fabric, bills, metal, whatever—and use them to make art out of your life by creating a collage. No experience needed. To get ideas, stop by the library to see Roxana’s current show, Life and the Memory of It, made of scraps from her own life.

Roxana descends from an old Cornwall family and has been a presence in the community since childhood. She lives in Washington DC, where she is a serious practicing artist, exhibiting nationally and internationally while teaching at George Mason University and raising a family.

In conversation, Roxana spoke about her show and workshop, the late Cornwall artist Duncan Hannah, and other things:

KVT How should students select scraps of paper or whatever for your workshop?
RG They should keep their eyes open for interesting things. Not just any scraps, but something about the shape, color or texture should make the scrap seem like a tasty little nugget. I have lots of ways of attaching things to collages, so when in doubt, bring it.

Collecting scraps is also good for sharpening your artistic eye.

KVT How long have you been making collages?
RG I’ve made many collages over the years. For this show I started work by looking at Duncan Hannah collages. My show is directly inspired by Hannah.

Really good art can look totally effortless, so after looking at the Hannah collages I was like, sure, I get it. I understood structurally how the collages worked and thought it should be no problem. Wrong!

It became a challenge to me. Every time you add something to the surface, you’re changing the depth and space of the whole thing. You’d think that small inconsistencies wouldn’t matter but they can make the whole piece feel unbalanced and awkward, so you have to pay attention. At the same time, you also want the sort of casual, assured kind of hand that Hannah had. It seems that he laid the elements down and everything sort of assembled itself, but it is much more than that.

KVT Did you know Duncan Hannah?
RG I only met him once. I knew of his work from the annual Rose Algrant Show in Cornwall. Years ago, I began seeing his collages there and was blown away. They were incredibly beautiful and intimate and funny. Every time that I was back in Cornwall for that show, I would look to see if Hannah was offering collages and I would buy another one.
KVT How is the college seminar that you teach useful to studio art majors?
RG The class is called Aesthetics. I think of it as helping students develop an embodied art experience that’s just their own and isn’t based on theory or technical considerations. To get them back to what it’s like as a child, to stand in front of something and be blown away by it. Maybe it’s because an artwork is just so amazing, or maybe it’s because you’re enraged by it, which can happen too. But also, so that when you look at a piece and nothing happens at all, you can feel that it isn’t a failure of yourself or the artist.
KVT How can I have an embodied experience in front of a painting?
RG I know that “embodied” sounds sort of jargony, but it’s the closest I’ve been able to get. Mostly I’m trying to get them to do is just be, just look. It’s hard. If it sounds simple, it’s not. It’s mostly practice, trying to get to a sort of mindfulness.

And we do talk about theory in class. For example, every semester someone initiates a long discussion about “why abstraction?” Students may think that it’s a problem and their fault if they don’t understand a picture. I try to get them to relax a little.

KVT Do you have any parting advice for us?
RG If a possible project sparks my interest and seems like it would be fun to do, and especially if I feel bogged down in something else, I immediately do the fun project, even if it seems to take me in a bizarre direction, The instinct to take up the fun project without delay has always worked well for me. That instinct is gold.


Roxana will teach the collage workshop on Saturday, August 5 from 10 am until 12:30 pm, at $25 per person. Class size is limited and registration is required at, where you can also find more information about the workshop.

Kirk Van Tassel

Duncan Hannah Collage “Contents”. 2018.

Estrella | 15.25” x 13.25” x .75” framed

Iron String Holder | 13.25” x 15.25” x .75” framed

Artist Roxana Geffen