A skiff sits on the shore with foam at the water’s edge and sailboats in the background, black-bellied plovers work the wrack line at the edge of the ocean, the sky reflects off pools of water in a cranberry bog on a September day—typical enough scenes for an artist to realistically paint, draw, or even render in pastels, but Carol Flax of Yarmouth has taken on the challenge of creating these scenes with nothing more than paper, meticulously collected and cut from magazines, and glue.
Ms. Flax, who retired to the Cape in 2013, lives on Lewis Bay in Yarmouth. “Every day the beach is different, different colors, different light, different season. It’s not just the beaches, it’s the whole Cape. I’ll never be short of inspiration. I feel like the luckiest person in the world to live here.”
Using a technique she developed herself, Ms. Flax repurposes magazines, collecting specific colors and hues and cutting, arranging, and gluing them to create collages that are so realistic they are often mistaken for representational paintings. “My goal is to push the paper to its limit and to treat it in a painterly way.”
“I ask all the questions a painter would ask. Where are the shadows attached to the subject, how do I get the light in a bird’s eye, and how do I portray the weight of an object to make it look real.?” “I have to layer the paper according to what’s in the background and build toward what’s closest to the viewer.”
Ms. Flax will be the featured artist at Creative Hands Gallery in Sandwich this month. A wine and cheese reception with Ms. Flax will take place in the gallery on Sunday, October 8, from 2 to 4 PM.
Ms. Flax said she took art lessons when she was a child and that when she was in college, collage was “hot.” She dabbled in the medium and developed the technique that she would later name cut paper mosaics. “I started with simple shapes and easy landscapes.” She went on to pursue other studies and college but never forgot the collage technique.
After retiring and moving to the Cape Ms. Flax was able to pick back up with her unique cut paper mosaic landscapes. “I feel so lucky to have fallen back into this,” she said. “It’s like a dream deferred.”
Ms. Flax said she sometimes uses photographs to help remember scenery but mostly “the pictures are in my head.”
Ms. Flax creates her collages entirely from magazines she collects and sorts looking for colors and color blends that will work together to create her realistic collages.
The images in the magazine are completely unrelated to the landscape Ms. Flax is creating. “I find myself looking at periodicals in a totally different way. I’m always looking for textures and shades. It’s a totally different way of looking at photos and images.“
Ms. Flax looks for colorful high-end magazines on heavy stock, so the text on the back page doesn’t show through. Glossy magazine pages work well for accents.
Bridal magazines are a good source for clouds, architectural magazines have a lot of textures, and Cape Cod Life and Cape Cod Magazine are “the colors of the Cape.”
“It’s a treasure hunt,” Ms. Flax said. “I look through magazines to pull my palette.”
“I love taking something that would be thrown away and making it into something beautiful,” said Ms. Flax. “I love that it will have a life totally separate from what it used to be.”
Ms. Flax said she did a lot of experimenting when she was starting out to find the right consistency of glue and archival paper. She also uses archival glass, so her work will not fade.
A professional artist for four years now, Ms. Flax’s first solo show was this summer at the Woodruff’s Art Center in Mashpee Commons. She currently has work hanging at the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve as part of its show of environmental art. Her work is also down-Cape at Cape Coddle in Orleans.
For the show at Creative Hands Gallery, Ms. Flax plans to bring over some newly finished pieces, as well as some large works. Ms. Flax said that when she began she was creating 8-by-10-inch collages but made a jump in size over the winter and has been created pieces as large as 2-by-3 feet.
Ms. Flax said she is looking forward to the reception at Creative Hands and to meeting some of the gallery’s art patrons.
“I like meeting and sharing the process with the people who purchase my art. Selling a piece of art is like sending off a little bit of yourself.”