Ephemera, Mixed Media, and Recycled Art

April 7, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In an online group I am part of, a question was posed as to whether there is a disinterest in ephemera. According to Merriam Webster, ephemera is, “paper items (as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles.”

Having come relatively recently to the whole area of mixed media, etc, when I first came upon that group, I had to clarify what the definition of the word ephemera was. I found that my understanding – smaller pieces you might use in art that are usually small decorative paper things like postage stamps –  was pretty close.

I wonder though if it is true that there is a decline in interest in ephemera or if it may be due to a misunderstanding of the word.  Most people are at least familiar from reading with the word ephemeral which means lasting a very short time.  I’ve even heard it used during the same conversation  with ethereal and I wondered how common it is that people would mix up the meanings.

Ephemera is exciting because while it all tends to be very useful being mostly on the small side,  it is, almost by definition, older and therefore calls up memories of a time when things were more simple; either personally or culturally.

I believe the decline in ephemera is partly due to the computerization of the culture and partly because we just don’t hold on to things like we used to.  I have a pretty old Pokemon card my son gave me when he was very young but the bulk of the cards are long gone, donated by him to charity and an old concert ticket but more and more these tickets are processed via the web and all the buyer might come away with is a receipt printed from the computer.

But there is an audience out there for it – younger people who are finding mixed media and recycled art due to a concern for the environment and a mind to reuse things. I believe ephemera as an artistic concept just needs to be reintroduced, explained, and needs to grow to encourage artists to look for new ways to use it. Also, those of us that are older and have a different concept of ephemera, need to realize that though the actual things may change, it was and is our appreciation of those things that we want to foster in younger artists and help them do the same.

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  1. So right! I love ephemera as you do, so many people look at me like I’m batty when I’m wanting the “old junk” out of drawers, rather than the cabinet, at thrift stores, lol!
    xoxo MotherDana


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