By Michael Wagar
Fred Nicholson’s writings about his family’s life have appeared off-off Broadway in New York City. He’s carved wooden figures for seven months in a small village on the island of Bali in Indonesia. Destiny has also taken Nicholson through the horror of the Vietnam War and monastery life in Asia.
Today, Nicholson believes fate has brought him to live in Kingston, working for the Boxlight Corporation as a salesman of computer projection equipment by day and the rest of the time embarking on an intense, near-obsessive passion of creating intricate collages that run from the personal to the spiritual.
With the barrage of images making up each collage, Nicholson allows the viewer to make the interpretation. His hope is to provoke some thought, some emotion.
“It helps people to feel something,” Nicholson said. “It doesn’t matter if they like it.”
Nicholson’s collages, made up of hundreds of pictures cut from books, magazines and whatever the spirit moves him to rend, are painstakingly glued together to form a large, usually about 3-foot-by-4-foot, image.
Two of his pieces were shown at the Artists’ Edge gallery in Manette early this year.
Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Silverdale will exhibit four more of Nicholson’s collages during August.
Brian Watson, the gallery coordinator for Artist’s Edge, said Nicholson’s collages are “graphically strong.”
Watson was impressed with a collage titled “Spirit Rising,” which at first glance pulls the viewer in with images of skulls with snakes and worms writhing through the eyes.
“It came to me, I had to do something, but I had no idea,” Nicholson said, explaining the start of “Spirit Rising.” “I just knew it was going to be about life and death and rebirth.”
The collage includes several images of the earth, including one in which the planet is blown up in an atomic explosion. Spirits flow out of the broken world. Nicholson said there is no fear, because even if the earth is scorched, the spirit of humans would survive.
“Some of his images are disturbing,” Watson said. “ They’re meant to be arresting to draw the viewer in. Once the viewer is captivated, more is revealed. I think the viewer comes away with a sense that something needs to be changed in the world around us. A lot of his other things are joyful.”
Nicholson also has made a few ‘personal’ collages, where he mixes images with family photos. These tend to celebrate the family members and interests of a central person.
“It almost brings tears to your eyes,” Watson said. “You can tell, with the care he has to cut each piece, how much love he’s putting into each of his pieces, and that to me is what gives his pieces their really powerful qualities.”
On a personal collage he made for a colleague, Nicholson spent almost three months collecting images.
It took him another four days to glue the images together, including 48 sleepless hours during the last two days.
He said that throughout the process he is a faucet for a higher power.
“I felt like I was a vehicle, a tool,” Nicholson said. “It was like a higher nature directed me. I felt like a marionette. I became the observer, not the doer.”
Nicholson said when he attempts to get in the way of his work, when he begins to judge it, to wonder if this picture is right, this one wrong, the process is fouled.
“I find more and more in my life when I just am, and not judging what I’m doing – good, bad, failure, success – then I’m not following my mind, I’m following my feet,” Nicholson said. “And when I’m following my feet, I end up with a smile on my face because that’s where I’m supposed to be.
The Kitsap SUN, Thursday, July 23, 1998