David C. Kuss

I am an unrepentant bibliophile, artist and art educator living and working in Cleveland, Ohio. My art work currently is focused upon collage and assemblage and is rooted in my deep love of books… but I have worked extensively as a painter, print maker and draughtsman… as well as experimented with ceramics and other art forms. My hobbies (my wife would say “obsessions”) include (in case you haven’t already got this) books (I live in a library where towering stacks of books teeter precariously… threatening to crush one of us at any moment), music (especially classical, jazz, and bluegrass… some mix, eh?), art history, and travel (mostly to cities where major art collections may be perused)


home page:




“I loved maudlin pictures, the painted panes over doors, stage
sets, the backdrops of mountebanks, old inn signs, popular
prints, antiquated literature, church Latin, erotic books
innocent of all spelling, the novels of our grandfathers,
fairytales, children’s storybooks, old operas, inane refrains,
and artless rhythms.”

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins…”
-T.S. Eliot

1992- BFA (with honors) Cleveland Institute of Art
Major in Painting, Minors in Printmaking and Drawing
1997- Art Education Certification, Cleveland State University

2004-“Recent Work”, The Art Gallery, Willoughby, Ohio, group exhibition

2003- “Eclecti-Schism” (CMSD Faculty Art Exhibition), juried group exhibition
The Art Gallery, Willoughby, Ohio
Award: Best Three-Dimensional Work: “Meditations on the Oresteia”

2002- “First Annual CMSD Faculty Art Exhibition”, juried group exhibition
CACP Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio
Award: Best Two-Dimensional Work: “Portrait of the Artist’s Wife”
jurors: Lawrence Krause and Wendy Collin Sorin

1994- “Stone Soup” group exhibition
ArtFux Gallery, Jersey City, New Jersey

1993- “Downtown Jersey City Artist’s Studio Tour”
The Artist’s Studios at 111 First St., Jersey City, New Jersey

1993- “Inspired by Lorca”, group exhibition of art works inspired by the poetry of
Fedrico Garcia Lorca
Grace Church, Jersey City, New Jersey

1993- “Thrown Together”, group exhibition
Progressive Culture Works Gallery, Jersey City, New Jersey

1993- “Racism”, group exhibition
Progressive Culture Works Gallery, Jersey City, New Jersey

1991- “8th Annual Print Exhibition”, juried group exhibition
Karamu House, Cleveland, Ohio


1997/ present- Art Educator, CMSD, Cleveland, Ohio

2004- Article for National Collage Society publication

2004- Monthly Articles published in Palette Peeps Web Page

2004- juried work for CMSD Exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Cleveland, Ohio

2002- Guest Speaker for Arts Space, a discussion between artists, art professionals, developers,
landlords, and Cleveland politicians regarding the development of “Work Live” space
and the needs of artists within the city of Cleveland.

2000-2003- Gallery Director, CACP Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio

2000 and 2001- Guest Lecturer, Cleveland State University,
Business of Art Class, Dr. Laurel Lampela

2001- juror, Cleveland State University Student Art Exhibition

David C. Kuss: Artist’s Statement

“I do not doubt but the majesty and beauty of the world are
latent in any iota of the world;
I do not doubt there is far more in trivialities, insects, vulgar
persons, slaves, dwarfs, weeds, rejected refuse than I have
-Walt Whitman

“To see a world in a grain of sand
and a heaven in a wild flower
to hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour…”
-William Blake

“I loved maudlin pictures, the painted panes over doors, stage
sets, the backdrops of mountebanks, old inn signs, popular
prints, antiquated literature, church Latin, erotic books
innocent of all spelling, the novels of our grandfathers,
fairytales, children’s storybooks, old operas, inane refrains,
and artless rhythms.”

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins…”
-T. S. Eliot

“Only trust the fragments.”
-Donald Barthleme

“For good or ill… these fragments piled up here by time are all that I am.”
-Jorge Luis Borges

Anytime I am cornered and obliged to offer up something by way of an artist’s statement, I immediately put forward one of these favorite quotes. After all, it must be admitted that I have been just as much influenced by books and reading (and especially by poetry), as I have by art. As anyone who knows me will attest, I am an incurable bibliophile. The walls of my modest home are lined with book shelves. To the eternal chagrin of my wife, piles of books tower and teeter in nearly every room, frequently spilling out onto the floor. Undoubtedly it has been this obsession with books that has been the biggest influence in my attraction to collage. I accept that collage is an art of fragments… an art that seeks to see the world in trivialities…or in “a grain of sand”. Frequently, these fragments are drawn from books… both literally, as the very material from which I construct my art, and as a source of inspiration. Like Jorge Luis Borges, I might also say, “Few things have happened to me, and I have read a great many. Or rather, few things have happened to me more worth remembering than Schopenhauer’s thought or the music of England’s words.”
Recently a question was put forth to me, challenging the continued relevancy of collage. “Was not collage,” it was asked, “with its collection of bits and pieces and bric-a-brac, an inherently sentimental medium?” Originally educated/trained as a painter, I often had similar doubts about the relevancy of such a dated, slow medium as painting, in this age of computers, film and PhotoShop. Still, I don’t believe that either painting, nor collage can be quite so easily pigeon-holed as to being no more than media of the past. The very nature of collage/assemblage… constructed , as it were , from fragments of diverse imagery and materials , is open to a plethora of interpretations: It might stand as a metaphor for the speed of our modern world and the impossibility of a single linear narrative. It might stand for the fragmentation and collapse of our society… our culture… of art itself. There is something of a spiritual quality to collage in the manner in which it is an art that sifts through the debris and strives to make something from nothing… to give form to the wreckage and refuse of life. At the same time, it is an art that accepts the inevitability of fragmentation… of mortality… or of rebirth… physical or spiritual (through recycling?). Still further, collage may play with anachronism: the absurd combination of the new and the old. It might represent the urge to preserve the past… as a diary or reliquary of memory. It might reveal through its very form the cacophony of our world. It might speak of other art forms: of toys, books, furniture, the theater, architecture, and more… All of this I am aware of and intrigued by.
At the same time, it must be admitted that there’s a cultural history with assemblage and collage. Collage and assemblage seem to have been perfectly tailored to the United States. America, after all, is a country of melded and recycled cultures, constructed of fragments of older beliefs, systems, and values. What could be a better metaphor of this than an art equally composed of merged fragments? Beyond this , there’s an argument to be made for creating art from one’s native resources. Thus, the Italians frequently use the marble quarried in Carrara , while the Germans prefer wood cut from the Black Forest. The United States is a country overflowing with refuse… remains of our consumer culture… the idyllic(?) resource for the American artist. Can we imagine the art of Robert Rauschenberg as having been born from any other culture than that of urban America? It also must be admitted that the methods of the collage/assemblage artist have much more to do with American culture (the work of artisans and craftsmen: woodworkers , carpenters , builders ,limners , engineers , and architects) than the virtuoso “fine art” of painting or sculpted marble. I think here of the still-life paintings of William Harnett and John Peto who fetishized the mundane in a manner that stands as the spiritual precursors to Joseph Cornell, H.C. Westerman and Robert Rauschenberg.
Undoubtedly, it must be admitted that certain approaches to collage… those which consciously utilize the aged, weathered materials and precious objects, flirt with sentimentality… yet is not collage by its very nature, in the manner in which fragments of refuse… of abandoned, discarded, and cast off images, materials and objects are miraculously transformed into new works of great beauty and poetic resonance, a “romantic” endeavor? Yes, there’s a danger of “sentimentality” in collage, but there’s always a “danger” in art. For the big painter, there’s a danger of pretentiousness. For the artists utilizing the latest technologies and images, there’s the danger that merely a few short years later such works will be no more than embarrassing “period pieces.”
Personally, I find that collage and assemblage allow me to explore a vast range of interests. Yes, I have to admit that there is something of an attempt to capture memory… the past… history in my work. There is also something of a meditation upon the transitory nature of life… of mortality. But there is a lot more, as well. I must declare that my own work in the genre draws inspiration from numerous other sources. The structure of my assemblage works often owe quite a bit to architecture and furniture. I have long studied buildings (especially the ecclesiastical) from various eras: Gothic , Romanesque , Renaissance and Victorian. My works also owe something to medieval reliquaries and icons. I also draw inspiration from the structures and the mood or atmosphere of music… I am always imagining Bach’s “geometry” given concrete form. In theme and concept my assemblage and collage owes as much (if not more) to books and literature as it does to anything else. Like the surrealist poets ,T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and Marinetti, I often draw together fragments of language and text. In fact I am profoundly fascinated by the possibilities of an art form which combines the visual arts with text or paint. If there is a predecessor to collage in my mind, it is clearly the Gothic cathedral in which so many arts were wed in the service of a single (spiritual) goal.
Just recently I was at a conference given to public art school teachers which dealt with the issue of collage. I was surprised that a good number of art teachers started to ask questions about the legality and even the ethics of using someone else’s images. Hadn’t they ever seen Kurt Schwitter’s or Joseph Cornell’s work, I wondered. More shocking, was the response. The lecturer stated that such appropriation of imagery (if the original was not one’s own) was open to use by educators, for educational uses… but if it was to be sold or published proper permission should be acquired. Collage, it seems to me, is not a medium trapped in the past, but rather it is at the edge of current technologies (Photoshop editing, music “sampling”) as well as current controversies (for better or worse).
There’s a truly intriguing , beautifully written (and very slim) book by the contemporary poet, Charles Simic, entitled, “Dimestore Alchemy.” The book is a elegant series of meditations upon the work of Joseph Cornell, whom Simic sites as inspiring his own approach to poetry. In one meditation, Simic suggests that the use of collage/assemblage/ montage… fragments of pre-existing imagery… might just be THE most important innovation of modern art. Hermann Hesse’s “Glass Bead Game” prophesied a future in which new art, as once created, would cease to exist. Instead, what we would have was a “game” of reassembling fragments from the past. Of course, this “game,” I would argue, has led to some of the most beautiful “original” art of the last century.



  1. Wendy Collin Sorin said,

    January 4, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Jasper Johns credited Peto as an early, important influence also. I would argue that the most creative and exciting work in contemporary collage is being made by African-Americans, especially Mark Bradford who has taken collage to new heights. Leonardo Drew is another fine example; the quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend. Then there are the so-called outsiders who use whatever materials are at hand due to limited resources and physical restrictions: George Widener’s drawings on found paper, especially, among many others.

  2. stlukesguild said,

    January 4, 2008 at 9:10 pm


    Thanks for taking a look. I’m actually sort of surprised. I just created this blog and have only started uploading things over the last few days. I must agree with you with regard to Leonardo Drew. His works are certainly marvelous… overwhelming… as are the quilts from Gee’s Bend. Among other marvelous outsiders I immediately think of Adolf Wolfli (although he may be more of a “book artist” or “illuminator” than a “collagist”… James Castle, Pascal verbena, George Widener, and obviously Ferdinand Cheval. There are many other contemporary (or near contemporary) collagists who have done some marvelous work. Off the top of my head I think of Cecil Touchon, Fred Otnes, Hanelore Baron, Emilio Lobato, Leonore Tawney, Ted Larsen (if he qualifies), and among my favorites Lee Bontecou, Christian Boltanski, Robert Nickle (fabulous!) and Varujan Boghosian (a poetic collage/assemblage artist from the generation of the great Ab Ex painters… but far closer in spirit to the Surrealists and Joseph Cornell… Julian Stanczak introduced me to his work). Perhaps the most fabulous contemporary “collagist”… in the vein of Cheval… is the “anarchitecht”, Richard Greaves, who produces his marvelous architectural assemblage/installations/earth art projects in the wilds of Canada: http://bugnag.com/2007/02/21/richard-greaves-anarchitecture/

  3. Ronald J. Sherno said,

    January 8, 2008 at 5:54 am

    Dear Dave, If it is allright with you, I’d like to send you a contemporary poem now and then…to your regular e-mail. Also send some of my “creations” or works-in-progress for your perusal. Just let me know is this is ok and not an intrusion. Ron Sherno

  4. Wendy Collin Sorin said,

    January 8, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Thanks for some of these names; I’ll look into this further. I just saw the current issue of Art Forum yesterday and there’s a two page spread from Sikkema Jenkins of a Mark Bradford work. That’s the gallery where I saw his work for the first time. Please check him out; you will be inspired and transformed! Do you read Raw Vision magazine? It’s always inspirational. A listserv worth subscribing to is spidertangle. I’ve exhibited with many of them both online and in galleries. There are always opportunities for showing; you should get involved. A great bunch of people. Cecil Touchon, whom you mentioned, belongs to the list and organized a show last year.

  5. stlukesguild said,

    January 8, 2008 at 7:57 pm


    I looked at Bradford on the Sikkema Jenkins site but the reproductions are so small in comparison to the posted dimensions that I can get little feel for the work. Yes… I regularly check out “Raw Vision”. I agree that many of the “outsiders” can be more inspirational than the over-educated art school grads. It’s a reason I find the kids art (those I teach) to often be so fabulous. What does that say about us?

  6. stlukesguild said,

    January 8, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Quasi… Ron…


  7. Wendy Collin Sorin said,

    January 9, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    The works are huge, covering former warehouse walls. They are very tactile, even at a distance and yes, impossible to appreciate in tiny reproductions. But worth tracking down in person. Time for a quick trip to New York? Coincidentally, Art on Paper arrived today with a two-page article on Bradford, a brief interview, a detail shot. Again, ain’t nothin’ like the real thing. It’s just that he’s taken collage to a whole new place and it’s thrilling. (I rarely experience nirvana, as Julian used to say.)

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