Art historians will tell you that collage began around the beginning of the last century, when Picasso and Braque pasted some papers onto their paintings. It is assumed that what people did with cut paper and cut-outs of pictures before then belongs entirely in the realm of amateur folk crafts, and cannot be classified as “art.” However, people around the world have been creating beautiful work with paper and cutting devices for centuries.
One of my favorites is the eighteenth century English aristocrat Mrs. Mary Delany (1700-1788). Beginning at age 72 and continuing for ten years until her eyesight began to fail, she created almost 1,000 botanical illustrations from cut paper. Her pictures were made with incredibly intricate detail. She would cut out with exact precision each tiny detail of a plant—individual stamens, bits of pollen, cactus spines... She called her works “Paper Mosaicks,” and that is partly why I like to use the term paper mosaic collage for my own pictures.
One of the great joys of my life was getting to study a majority of these in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum. They have now scanned the entire collection of nearly 1,000 of these works and made it available online.
Today the collage aesthetic is everywhere in art, music, and commerce, much of it driven by computer technology. As far as art goes, I confess to a bias toward traditional cutting and pasting. I love the tactile qualities of work created from different papers and objects combined together. My own pictures are quite textural. People have even felt compelled to pet them!