Alameda Artist Michael Tunk Does Wonders With Collage

Life, death, and comic books inspire creative works of art.


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Paper collages: Big Cats of War Illustrated: 1000 Yard Stare, 2013, 10 x 6, and Ballyhoo, 2013, 16.5 x 11.

Collage is super easy, which is why children are taught to do it. Cut polygons from magazines and glue them willy-nilly on a piece of paper. But creating truly transformative collage art that transcends its materials in a whole that is greater than its parts is exceedingly difficult. Michael Tunk just makes it look easy.

Most of his portfolio was created in the three years since he moved to Alameda from Warrenville, Ill. A prolific artist, Tunk challenged himself to create 365 pieces in one year, finishing months ahead of schedule. He works compulsively through the night, finally getting to bed at 6 a.m., only to get up a few hours later for his day job at Alameda Natural Grocery. He buys X-Acto knives by the hundreds, and can go through 40 of them on a single image. “That may seem wasteful,” he says, “but the cuts need to be perfect.”

He clips elements from magazines and books—favoring images of the idealized nuclear family of the 1950s—combining them with found photos, scanned fresh flowers, his own pen and ink drawings, and a wry sense of humor. After the death of Klondike, his beloved Maine Coon, Tunk bought an Audubon guide and several books on the Vietnam War, merging them in the first of his Big Cats of War series. “There’s so much to them,” Tunk says. “Thinking about overpopulation, humans taking over animals, and war destroying everything. I do a lot of collage work with things that I fear the most.”

His work has been exhibited in Alameda at Rhythmix Cultural Works and at Redux Studios & Gallery, where every piece featured “upcycled” images, bits of cultural detritus refashioned into something fresh. Tunk respects those who created their raw materials. “With collage, you’re using things that are collecting dust in antique stores, kind of bringing them back to life,” he says. “Yeah, you’re using things that come from these amazing and unbelievably great artists, but I’m able to create what I imagine by doing so.”

Tunk’s work continues to evolve. “I’m inspired by all things life, death, and comic books,” says Tunk, who worked at a comic shop for 10 years. “I try not to do the same things over and over again. The direction is constantly changing, and that’s good. Everything that I do is experimenting and trying to push as far out as I could go.”

See Tunk’s work at MichaelTunk.tumblr.com.
 

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