Q: When did you know you were going to be an artist?
There was no definitive moment. I have always been artistic and creative, so art was something I just assumed would always be part of my life. My concentration in college was illustration, so I wouldn’t have necessarily called myself an artist at that time, but I think in the last few years, my focus has shifted toward more personal and self-initiated work.
Q: Describe your process.
I use a variety of mediums and processes, but my work is chiefly collage. I collect old photographs, textbooks, encyclopedias and all kinds of ephemera, and layer the materials until I have a composition that speaks to me. I often use digital tools, such as Photoshop, to combine layers of controlled and precise imagery and shapes with areas of more expressive mark making and texture. Although my pieces are two-dimensional, I want them to retain a tactile quality.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
I am excited by the idea of telling stories through objects. I relish working with found materials, especially ephemera, photographs and old books I find in thrift stores, as each piece of notepaper, label or ticket has a history that to me is personal and intriguing.
Q: Name the 3 most important things in your studio space.
I would be lost without my collection of found papers. I’ve been hoarding paper scraps for years and can’t bear to throw anything away in case one day it will be the perfect final segment of a piece I’m working on. I also use my scanner and computer every day for research, cataloguing found materials and to create my digital pieces.
Q: What do you want others to know about you/your work?
I often venture into themes of maps, journeys and biographies, and use found objects and photographs to create original pieces that tell a life story. The pieces in this exhibition are inspired by and based on a found scrapbook made in the 1920s by my husband’s great-grandmother, Louise Plunkett.
Newell is a mixed media artist who works mainly with drawing, collage and digital tools. Originally from Manchester, England, she attended Edinburgh College of Art and received a BA in Visual Communication in 2009. She has exhibited work in both the United States and the United Kingdom, and has lived in Omaha since 2014.
Below is her artist’s statement:
“I am fascinated by themes ranging from maps and journeys to biography and the idea of telling stories through objects. I often venture into this subject by using found objects and photographs to create original pieces that tell a life story, either real or imagined.
Fragments is a response to a found scrapbook made by teenager Louise Plunkett in the early to mid 1920s. Louise grew up in Council Bluffs and Omaha, and the book documents her high school years at Abraham Lincoln and then Omaha South high schools. The pages include letters from friends, newspaper clippings, photographs and event tickets, and include handwritten captions and comments scrawled in the margins.
By using imagery and text from the book, I aim to elevate and preserve the ephemeral. The intimate process of sifting through a stranger’s memories allowed me to form a personal connection to Louise through the mementos she kept. This collection is my exploratory attempt to ‘connect the dots’ and construct a narrative from these remnants.”
Fragments runs through Feb. 24 at the little gallery. Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 3:00 to 6:00pm, Saturday from 10:00am to 1:00pm and by appointment. For more information, call 402.681.1901.