Command-C, click, Command-V. It’s the universal rearranging of information. From Brooklyn to Hong Kong, we reposition all day long with little consideration, just the reflexive positioning of fingers on our keyboards and heedless left clicks. We cut and paste for clarity, out of laziness, and because we can’t find our own means of expression.
But artist Jay Riggio’s craft is that of the early cut-and-paste model: the physical detachment of subject from circumstance. Permanent and formulated, Riggio’s alterations take the form of curious analog collages mixing personal relief with published depictions. Releasing emotions from their visual cues, and with titles like Counterfeit magic and the arrogance behind this truth, Daydreaming on Vicodin and Sorting through God’s closet, we found the shittiest things, Riggio’s true-to-life sentiment replaces the context of a glossy page.
And whether we understand them or not, we feel them—life, love, humor and humanity. Riggio eases us into his dreamlike impressions with unique pairings of people, places and visual passion. Just take a look for yourself.
First off, who are you? Give us the Jay Riggio spiel!
My full name is Jay Anthony Riggio. I was born and raised in Long Island, New York. I now live and work in Brooklyn.
The names of your pieces are perfect. Do the collages ever follow the names, or always the visual story first?
Thank you. It varies. Often, before I start a piece I’ll have a title written down. I’ll then create a piece with the words and their emotional ties bouncing around in my head. Other times, the title surfaces as I’m making the piece. While cutting imagery I’m often moved to feel very specific things that shape the work and their corresponding titles.
We never see the subjects’ faces. Are they indicative of you? Of a generalized audience?
I feel like faces can convey so much, and at times can tell too much of a story that ultimately isn’t mine to tell. I prefer to manipulate faces of the subjects in my work so that I can better tailor the imagery to the personal story I’m trying to tell. Every now and again I’ll let a face show.
Strangest item you’ve ever incorporated into a collage?
I feel like I’ve used everything and nothing seems that strange to me anymore. But I went through a phase about 15 years ago when I was using a lot of imagery of genital skin disorders from hospital journals. I’m glad I don’t use those anymore.
What do you hope, if anything, the viewer takes away from your collages? Do you strive to imply relatable stories?
I would love if any or all of my audience has some kind of emotional response to my work. Even if it’s a low-level feeling of uneasiness when looking at a piece. The stories I try to tell come from a place that’s subjective, but I think deep down I strive for others to truly relate to my work. Perhaps the lonely parts of my heart desperately want company.
It’s rare to find an artist of any kind these days with no use of digital manipulations—hats off to you. Do you look to any digital influences—Tumblr, Instagram—during your process? Are you opposed to the digital sphere that a lot of art has taken to?
Thank you so much. I use Instagram and Tumblr for sharing my work and following artists I really like. But I don’t consider it part of my creative process at all. I’m more inspired by my day-to-day experiences and emotional responses to my own thoughts. I’m definitely not opposed to the digital aspect that exists in the art world today. I don’t know how to use a computer very well, so I couldn’t do anything digital even if I tried. But for me, the vast limitations that analog collage poses are part of the challenge and thrill of composing imagery. One wrong cut or tear and the piece is completely ruined. It’s not like there’s a double of the image you’re working with waiting for you when you fuck up. The fragile nature of the medium makes it that much more special and gratifying when a piece finally comes together.
What’s your creative process like? From idea generation to the execution itself.
I spend a lot of time searching out and collecting used books to cut up. I’ll sit for hours sometimes and flip through pages. Everything I make begins with a single image that I find particularly compelling. From there, I slowly build around that image. Music is always on while working. If it’s not on, the process feels incomplete. Usually, I spend more time thinking about the piece I’m working on than physically working on the piece. I experiment a lot with switching in and out added elements and perspectives. A lot of times I cut out pieces that never get used. I like to alternate between the pieces I’m working on. It gives me a chance to step away and come back to it with a fresh eye. As far as the final glue down, that can be the most difficult depending on the how intricate the piece may be. I use spray glue, which is completely unforgiving. But I like the permanence it gives the final product.
Do you like distractions?
Distractions are good for me. I’m obsessive about the work I do. Most of the time, I have to force myself to step away my desk. But they are good. I like to walk around the city. Hang with friends. Eat and drink coffee and hang with my girlfriend and our dogs. For me, the time away from working allows me to explore ideas that have trouble breathing when I’m cutting all day long.