An Accretionary Tale

Georgia Harden works confidently in the endless possibilities of collage.
Portrait by Sabrina Hill

Fear of the Blank Canvas — FOBC for short — isn’t a clinical diagnosis you’ll find in any medical textbooks or peer-reviewed journals. But it’s a very real affliction for Leicester collagist Georgia Harden. 

“It has dogged me through decades of drawing and painting classes, sapping my artistic virility and paralyzing me with the sheer number of possibilities inherent in a pristine stretch of white,” the artist states breathlessly. 

But just as cool compresses break a fever and ginger tea cures a cough, collage, for Harden, soothes the dread caused by FOBC. 

Fortress of Indestructible Leftovers

“With collage, there is no blank canvas; the visual material already exists,” she explains. “The images I cut out already have color, shape, and character. They suggest compositions, pairings, and vignettes that stimulate my creativity before it has a chance to get nervous and freeze up … [they also] hint at themes and narratives that wouldn’t otherwise occur to me.” 

Harden discovered the medium around 2016 when she and her husband, Arik, moved from Boston to his native Asheville. Today they live in a house in Leicester they built in 2022, where Harden has her own studio. But for their first year in the mountains, the couple holed up in Arik’s parents’ basement. For the next five, they lived in a 40-foot-long school bus they remodeled into a bungalow on wheels. Though they can be cozy and charming, “neither basements nor tiny homes are very conducive to art making,” Harden admits. 

“Most of my tools and supplies were in storage, and there was nowhere to leave out a work-in-progress,” she says. “I had to stick with a medium that was collapsable and pack-away-able into a small space. Collage fit the criteria, and that was how my current body of work began.” 

The Radiant Flurry of Afternoon

Her passion for art, however, was kindled much earlier, when she was a child surrounded by the woods of rural Connecticut. Born to artists, she and her five younger siblings were encouraged to pull lithographs and monoprints on the printing presses in the basement, paint oil still lifes, write poetry, and hammer and solder silver jewelry. 

This creative upbringing led her to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied printmaking and metalsmithing. But after graduating, Harden pursued a career in picture framing — a skill she had learned at 16. She has worked in frame shops ever since, taking a job at BlackBird Frame & Art on Merrimon Avenue in 2016. “I am the mounting specialist,” she says, “which means I’m responsible for cutting mats and mounting art with glue, hinges, stitching, prongs, etc.”

The Dilemma

Harden creates her collages using materials culled from the pages of National Geographic magazines, specifically issues published in the 1970s and ’80s. “The coloring and grainy texture of the photos from these decades reminds me of snapshots of my parents when they were teenagers,” she says. It’s a look that evokes “an indistinct nostalgia.”

She pairs these images together using a fluid, stream-of-consciousness-type process. In return, she produces everything from urban dreamscapes to mystical deities, all of which are, she lists, “eclectic, humorous, crowded, busy, accretional, and full of narrative suggestion.  

The Mind of the Moth Unfolds at Midnight

“I rarely start with a full-fledged idea of what I want to make. In this way, collaging feels like a voyage of discovery as much as creation.”   

Georgia Harden, Leicester. Harden is represented by BlackBird Frame & Art (365 Merrimon Ave., Asheville, For more information, e-mail or see the artist’s IG page: @georgia.harden

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