This month, the KPR conference room is featuring “Gumbo Girl,” a collection of collages by artist and University of Kansas alumna Joelle Ford. The art centers around the nostalgia of growing up in the 1950s with visuals taken from magazines and family photographs. “Gumbo Girl” explores this time period through the perspective of a young girl in the South.
Ford has made large installations as well as small collages. Even though they are diverse in size and nature, the common thread is the application of unwanted items. Ford's parents endured the Depression and believed value could be found in almost everything, a belief which was instilled in their children and has become the basis for Ford's art. She utilizes found objects and items thought to have little value - "idle art" - in her work. These items are sometimes found while walking outside or purchased at garage sales and thrift shops, as well as contributed by friends and family. If one item sparks Ford's interest, many like items create an even greater interest; therefore, most of her work implements multiples and layering. Searching for new ways of making art and incorporating new material is an ongoing process.
Ford’s work has been acknowledged by the U.S. Department of State’s Art in Embassies program, Emprise Banks’ Kansas Art Collection and the University of Kansas.