Joanne de Longchamps (1923-1983) was a vital force in both the literary and visual arts of Reno, Nevada from 1941 until her death in 1983. De Longchamps' complex collages represented a desire to explore—visually—subjects that had informed her poetry, notably warm-and cold-blooded creatures and motifs from classical Greek history.
It must have seemed to de Longchamps, growing up in Los Angeles in the 1920s and 30s in a setting that was both glamorous and cast with attractive people, that the world had posed for her. While still in her early teens, she journeyed to France, where she took private art lessons, and absorbed the heady atmosphere of Paris. After her return to Los Angeles, de Longchamps took courses in drawing and oil painting at Chouinard Art Institute, and later enrolled in Los Angeles City College.
De Longchamps arrived in Reno in 1941, having carried on a long distance courtship with Galen DeLongchamps, the son of the noted Nevada architect, Frederick (Fredric) DeLongchamps. They were married that year, and their son, Dare, was born in 1949. She later changed the spelling of her last name to de Longchamps.
During the 1940s, de Longchamps began to explore her "twin concerns," poetry and the visual arts, with characteristic focus and energy. She enrolled in classes in the University of Nevada Department of Art with Helen Joslin, who provided rudimentary instruction in painting. Later, it was Robert Hartman, who joined the UNR faculty in 1958, who ignited what was to be a consuming passion for the rest of her life—collage.
In a letter from 1962, de Longchamps provided an insight into her process of making collages: "I use paper of all kinds (reproductions of photographs, ads, tissue paper, Japanese rice-paper, etc.). Very often these are built up layer on layer using either torn or scissor-cut edges. In some cases, paint has been added. In 'Dream of Shores,' melted wax was applied over the paper surface. Gravel was glued to the surface of 'Ancient Wall.'"
One observer described how de Longchamps would position hundreds of paper shards before finally gluing them to the picture base. He suggested that her process was "an exercise in tedium," and added that it was akin to working on "a picture puzzle with an infinite number of pieces."
Besieged by multiple sclerosis and cancer, de Longchamps was the subject of a solo exhibition of her collages on the UNR campus in 1983. She lived long enough to attend the opening reception in a wheelchair, but passed away before the exhibit ended on November 15.
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