Tangible Pastime

Winter, 2020–21 / No. 46

Camilla Gibb held on to boxes of old magazines for years, thinking one day her daughter might enjoy the art of collage as much as she did. Ultimately, the pleasures of cutting and arranging images into new pieces of art were not passed down, but Gibb was grateful to have kept her collection during the early days of the current pandemic.

Before the covid-19 lockdowns, the Toronto-based author had picked up her old pastime. When the pandemic hit, she was just finishing a new novel, The Relatives, and found herself unable to write anything new. Collaging offered both a tangibility and a physical immediacy Gibb found satisfying.

Gibb’s collages are nostalgic in subject, which is in part an aesthetic choice, but also a practical one. Vintage magazines, with their sturdy thick stock, are easier to work with. Gibb is drawn to natural elements: many of her pieces—like The Determined Canadian Facing Environmental Odds, above—feature familiar landscapes, with a few unexpected intruders. A bat morphs with a cabbage. An elk pops its head out of the domed window of a Canadian Pacific train car. A ballet dancer poses in formation with a flock of Canada geese.

“Some of them are just absurd, and some of them make me laugh,” Gibb said. Although her collages are analogue, Gibb shares them on Instagram, where they’ve gained an online audience. As an author, she considered the expectation that there would be words waiting to accompany her art. “I thought, No, that’s not the point. The point of the story is there,” Gibb said. “It’s whatever you take from it.”

Sue Carter is the editor of Quill and Quire, and the books columnist for Metro. Last updated winter, 2017–2018.