Photograph of Louis Armstrong, Velma Middleton, and Ray Martino backstage in Italy, 1949.
A professor I had during my graduate program in Italy had my cohort and I report to Piazza Santa Maria Novella for class one day. She instructed us to find the place that was engraved with the following saying: “tutti i passi che ho fatto, nella mia vita, mi hanno portato qui, ora.” It translated to “every step I have taken, in my life, has led me here, now,” I feel this statement is very fitting for today’s post since I’ve finally arrived with an approach to discussing Armstrong’s collage work.
As a visual artist, I have surprised myself with my delay of commentary on Louis Armstrongs’ use of visual collage. Last week I tackled the concepts of using fragmented perspectives to create one message, which I displayed through the use of Armstrongs’ reel to reel tapes, interviews, and other found sounds. The assemblage of those audio materials brought me to the analysis of Armstrongs’ diverse span of media gathering. The way he archived, and collected representations of his life through visual collage, and scrapbooking was they way I used audio sounds to tell my perspective on a topic in a current moment.
With the hundreds of reel to reel tapes that Armstrong left behind, many of them were accompanied by visual representations of his mind and emotions. In a blog post written by Sarah Rose in April of 2020, almost a year ago now, she mentions that Louis may have been inspired to begin making these collages from a 1949 visit to a countess in Italy. The post includes a clip of Louis speaking to his producer George Avakian about how after that experience he went back home to his den in Corona and began using images of his own to replicate a feeling he received from his time at the countess’ home.
Check out the interview clip and some other amazing and insightful facts related to Armstrongs’ collages in Sarah’s “A Little Story of My Own”: Armstrong and Collage post.
It is interesting to hear Louis describe his reason for collaging, and to then consider the influence he received from sharing one’s space and in return wanting to bring the characteristics of that space to his everyday reality. In another clip in Sarah’s post Armstrong says, “A man that travels or anyone that travels can always pick up on ideas…how to, you know, improve their homes and live, you know?” I believe my travels interestingly enough have brought me to the Armstrong House. Brought me to this moment in my life where I can analyze word usage and literature from a perspective of time period and social and political climates. To this very moment now when I consider how Armstrongs’ choice of imagery and scraps, created the moment he wanted to relive. “Every step I have taken, in my life, has led me here, now.”
More to come on Armstrongs’ technique, choice of medium, his use of text combined with imagery and what elements influence my audio, visual and performative work. For now take a look at the collage below, I hope it evokes emotions in you the way it has for me.