Art Break with the MFA! Colorful Collage

What brings you joy? What do you do to relax and have fun with family and friends? Artist Derrick Adams recognizes work is important, but so is time for fun! In his Floaters series, on view in the MFA’s special exhibition Bouyant, he celebrates Black joy through colorful collages of Black men, women, and children on bright and whimsical pool floats. Some paintings show people enjoying time alone, and others are with friends and family.

Adams’s work is inspired by a 1967 article from Ebony magazine that includes pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on vacation with his wife, Coretta. Dr. King was an incredibly important leader during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s. Many people remember him for his activism, powerful speeches, and dream of a world where people are not “judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Today, when you research Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. you’ll find many pictures of him working, protesting, and speaking to large crowds. So, when Adams first saw the photographs of Dr. King on vacation, he was surprised to see him swimming, walking on the beach, and relaxing with friends and family. 

Adams wants to create art that shows Black people in ways the world does not often see them — relaxing, joyful and having fun. These are all things that are important to being healthy and happy! To bring his work to life, Adams uses a technique called collage. A collage is an artwork that combines different types of materials. Adams paints his pool scenes and people, then adds patterned fabrics to create their swimsuits. 

Try making your own joyful collage at home! First, consider what brings you joy, and how you can show that in an artwork. Do you love swimming, dancing, or riding a bike? Once you’ve chosen your subject, follow the steps below to create your masterpiece. Use #MFAFromHome to share your creations with us online!

Materials:

  • Paper
  • Fabric or paper scraps
  • Pencil
  • Paint, oil pastels, crayons, or other coloring supplies
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick, glue dots, or liquid glue

Directions:

  1. Use a pencil to sketch your scene on a piece of paper.
  2. Decide which parts of your scene will be colored in and which parts will be collage. Then, use your sketch as an outline as you add paint, crayon, oil pastels or other coloring materials to your paper.
  3. Cut fabric or paper scraps into different shapes to add to your artwork. Use glue stick, dots, or liquid glue to stick your fabric to your collage.
  4. Optional: Interview a friend or family member and ask what brings them joy. Use their answers as inspiration to create a collage portrait of them doing what makes them happy. 

Images:
Digital Reproduction from Ebony, June 1967, Johnson Publishing Company.

Derrick Adams, American, b. 1970, Floater 24, 2016, Acrylic paint and fabric collage on paper, Collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody ART 11464