Everyday Talismans: Amy Sacksteder's new Ann Arbor Art Center Exhibit is a collage of colors


Artist Amy Sacksteder in her studio.

Amy Sacksteder in her studio. Photo by Abby Rosenbaum.

Amy Sacksteder explores life through collage art in a new exhibit at the Ann Arbor Art Center.  

Talismanic: The Collected Collages of Amy Sacksteder, on display through October 7, features four different series that she completed over eight years: Generations (2015), Grounded/Ungrounded (2019), Time Ghosts (2019-2020), and Echo Keepers (2021).

While the collages tend toward abstraction, the images are inspired by scenes and items in Sacksteder’s life, whether it's the natural beauty surrounding her house or the various common objects that reside within it. The cumulative effect of the Talismanic collection gives viewers the impression they are seeing snapshots from a personal photo album.

Sacksteder works in various media—oil painting, drawing, cut paper, and ceramics—and turned to collage after the birth of her first son.

"I was itching to get back into the studio," said Sacksteder, a professor in the School of Art and Design at Eastern Michigan University. "I recalled a process that I had demoed to my 2D Methods and Materials class that involved printing photographs on fine art papers and working back into the prints manually. I had an archive of images I had shot with the intention of using the images as source material for paintings, so I printed a number of them and began what felt like a very intuitive and generative process of cutting, layering, and applying acrylic paint with a ruling pen. Rather than crafting source images for paintings, those experiments became a series in their own right: Generations."

Amy Sacksteder, Total Solar Eclipse collage


Amy Sacksteder, Total Solar Eclipse collage

Sacksteder seems to turn to collage after monumental events. She returned to collage after the birth of her younger son and once again when "coming out of COVID isolation in summer 2021," she said. "The source images expanded to those I gathered in the course of my daily life, and so the resulting collages are like dioramas of moments in time spliced together, along with elements of the line, shape, color, and formal elements that also manifest in my painting practice."

With Sacksteder's training in painting, it is no surprise her use of color in Talismanic's works evokes a strong emotional response. The colors bring out a sense of nostalgia, with the strokes of hazy orange, dusty salmon pink, and light aqua recalling the color scheme of a retro movie. 

Sacksteder creates the pieces with cut-up inkjet prints and gouache paint, then layers the parts onto paper. She uses freeform shapes to create meticulously layered pictures that take shape over time.

"The collages happen in batches where I'm working on a grouping of them simultaneously," Sacksteder said. "Some are resolved quickly and others can be trickier, holding out on me. Yes, there's definitely a movement where a piece seems to make sense to me, like a puzzle is solved. I may sit with it for a bit, making little tweaks if necessary, before adhering the pieces." 

Amy Sacksteder, Generations Eclipse collage

Amy Sacksteder, Generations Eclipse collage

While Talismanic focuses on Sacksteder's collage work, her next exhibitions will spotlight her painted pieces.

"I'm currently working on a series of large oil paintings with cutouts into which I'm embedding ceramic tiles," she said. "The tiles are supported by a silver-leafed board behind the painted surface of the stretched canvas. I have shows coming up at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and the James May Gallery in Milwaukee, and plan to have a number of these larger paintings ready to show alongside my smaller work and ceramic vessels and sculptures."

But with the creative success of Talismanic, Sacksteder will no doubt turn to collage again when the time is right.

Marley Boone is a theater professional who has worked in the industry since 2015. While living in Philadelphia, she wrote theater reviews for DC Metro Arts.

“Talismanic: The Collected Collages of Amy Sacksteder “ is on display in the Ann Arbor Art Center, 117 W. Liberty Street, through October 7. More information can be found at annarborartcenter.org and on amysacksteder.com. You can see all the works in "Talismanic" here.