Concord collage artist wants work to be open to interpretation

Concord collage artist wants work to be open to interpretation

Concord collage artist wants work to be open to interpretation
Saira Grube began exploring collage art during the pandemic.

John NakanishiCONCORD, CA (Nov. 14, 2022) — The first time I saw the collage work of Saira Grube, I was struck by the unique, ethereal world the piece depicted.

It felt so peaceful and fairy-like, with comfortable-looking houses surrounded by interesting landscapes. But the closer I looked, the more I discovered within the blue-green surroundings: bits of words, staircases and curious peeks inside buildings. I needed to find out more about this artist and what lay behind her unique creations.

Grube, a Pleasant Hill native and 20-year Concord resident, received a bachelor of fine arts degree in ceramic sculpture from the California College of the Arts. For two decades, she has been the assistant director at an elementary school.

With a full-time job, a child to raise and other obligations, Grube found little time to pursue her own art until the 2020 pandemic shelter-in-place. With her job shut down for 70 days, she told herself, “I have no excuse not to go out to my studio and make something.”

Due to supply shortages, she had to make do with what she had on hand: paints and inks, paper and magazines, canvas and Mod Podge. Perfect materials for making a collage.

“I started ripping and touching and making things,” Grube says.

Feeling good about her art, she entered the “Birds, Nest, Nature” exhibition at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, and her entry made it into the show. With that, her journey into collage began.

‘Like making a puzzle’

Grube finds collage a lot of fun. She thinks it might be that she never formally learned collage, so there’s no sense of right or wrong. She loves ripping up papers and searching for just the right color or form or texture.

“It’s like making a puzzle, but you don’t always know what the picture is going to be,” she notes.

Grube’s “Eternal” utilizes her blue-green, ocean-inspired color scheme.

She spends a lot of time sifting through piles of scraps and pictures to find just the right pieces. Her works often morph numerous times because Grube is not satisfied. Something about it is not quite right, whether it is the color, balance or composition.

“You know in your heart when something is right,” says Grube, who may try to fix it but often ends up covering it up with more layers. If you hold a flashlight behind her art, it will shine right through some pieces, but others are completely opaque because of all the modifications.

Many works depict pairs of houses. “My houses are like relationships between people. A lot of them are reaching, touching each other – trying to make weird little connections with each other.”

Many of the backgrounds depict things found under the ocean. Grube is a scuba diver, so a lot of her art draws on her memory of how things appear under the ocean. Her blue-green color scheme and the way she develops the light within her pieces reflects her scuba diving experiences.

No clear explanation

Grube wants viewers to react to her art, not just think it is pretty. She wants to leave her work open to interpretation. For Grube, creating, showing and viewing art is all open for interpretation. The title of her latest piece, “The House of Lady Mondegreen,” summarizes this idea. The term Lady Mondegreen is a decades-old misinterpretation of the phrase “I laid him on the green” from an 18th-century poem. In the way that the person thought Lady Mondegreen was correct, drawing your own interpretation of anything is correct. It’s an interpretation and need not be “perfect.”

“Take a photo of it if you need it to look perfect,” Grube says. “If you’re going to draw it, let your mind change what you see. Who wants boring old reality all the time? What I want is to see how you remember it.”

Grube says that approach takes away the pressure about what your art looks like. “The way that our brain changes things before we process them into reality is wonderful, and I love that,” she says.

View Grube’s artwork at her Claysparrow Studio sites, and claysparrow_studios on Instagram.

John Nakanishi
John Nakanishi

John Nakanishi is treasurer of The Concord Art Association. He is an acrylic painter and a ceramic artist. When John isn’t creating art, he coaches soccer for East Bay Eclipse, a competitive soccer club based in Moraga. He is also an avid trail runner, enjoying runs from 5 miles to 50K.