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Spotlight on: Katy Hirschfeld, The Austin-Based Artist Behind ‘Collage Garage’

Anyone can cut out words and pictures from a magazine and paste them on paper (or pin them on Pinterest boards). In fact, ‘collaging’ is the one art form many of us design-handicapped people can easily partake in. But while you always hear about professional painters, photographers, and illustrators, rarely do you stumble upon the term ‘professional collager.’

Cue 25-year-old Katy Hirschfeld, a crafty and quixotic Austin-based mixed media artist who brings this underrated art form to life every day with the website Collage Garage.

Where did you grow up and what did you study in college?

I grew up in New Jersey—on the Jersey Shore, actually. I studied Middle Eastern Conflict Resolution, Sociology, Judaic Studies and New Media in college.

How did your interest in art develop?

I’ve been into art since I was about three years old. It was important to my mom, who was an art therapist. My neighbor was an art teacher so I learned a lot from her as well.

How did the idea for Collage Garage originate?

I had made so many collages over the years that were just sitting in my room. I was really bored and hated my job at the time, so I thought I should make a website with the collages. I’m really into gritty things, and usually when I create collages there’s stuff all over the place, resembling a garage. It rhymed, and I thought it was something memorable.

Where do you draw inspiration for your work?

Life experiences and things I find aesthetically pleasing. I’m obsessed with street art, the 1990s, and all things kind of seedy.

What are some common themes that run throughout your work?

I like to include certain Jewish words and symbols like Jewish stars, or a reference to a Jewish holiday. Themes of feminism, angst, and Jewish pride run through my work. I don’t believe in gender norms so I play around with that theme in a lot of my art as well—the piece I did called “Always Wins” was a like medicine during a horrible break up. I think I got over it the day I finished the collage.

What are the basic materials you need to make a good collage?

Spray paint, Mod Podge, varnish, vintage magazines, ink, and scissors.

How long does it take to finish a collage?

It definitely ranges. If I don’t like what I’m doing it can take me up to a year; I have collages lying around everywhere. I don’t enjoy doing it if it doesn’t come naturally and it’s a struggle, but the ones I love doing take me about 3 days.

How is collaging different than other art forms?

My mind is so chaotic that I usually don’t like sticking to just one main subject, so I think that’s the best part. I always have to incorporate other related words or feelings to whatever piece I’m making even if that piece is focused on one theme in particular. There’s a full range of emotions in all of my pieces.

Who are some artists you look up to?

I obviously love Andy Warhol. Derek Gores is one of my idols. He makes collages that almost look like real pictures; they’re so neat and precise I don’t know how he does it. I also really like Jean-Michel Basquiat, and I sweat every street artist.

What decade would you stay to live in forever?

I’d like to live in the mid-to-late-1990’s—preferably 1994 onward. Or I’d just like to live as Andy Warhol’s apprentice.

How has Judaism affected your life and work?

The history of Judaism, as well as references to the underdog coming out strong in the end, is a theme I carry through all of my work. I have a huge amount of Jewish pride and I think that’s visible in several of my pieces.

My grandparents were early settlers in Israel, and I think above all else, even art, I’m a lover of Israel. Studying abroad there was a time in my life I refer to as blissful. Contributing to and advocating for Israel and the Jewish people is extremely important to me.

Do you speak any Hebrew?

Ktzat! My dad was born in Israel—I like to call myself Israeli because I had to get an Israeli passport when I studied abroad there, because being first generation makes you an Israeli citizen. It sounds cool!

I know you live in Austin. What’s the art scene like?

It’s the best art scene. All of the artists are so helpful to each other, and a lot of artists are interesting in collaborating with me, which is exciting. I have a few collaborations in the works here.

Are you a full time artist/collager?

I’m an artist’s assistant too, but I’m basically an artist full-time. I want to go back to school because I don’t know how to paint for the life of me. I get frustrated that I have a limit to what I can do artistically.

Lots of your pieces have women’s faces as the focus. What is it about the female face that fascinates you?

It was the first thing I learned how to draw. If you look at my old art from when I was nine or 10 years old, you’ll find lots of girls’ faces with little thought bubbles above their heads. I think they are all reflections of me and whatever I was feeling at the time.

Who’s at your dream dinner table, living or dead?

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kurt Cobain, Golda Meir, Martin Bell and my two older sisters.

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