Exhibition Profile: Salt Lake City
Hidden Treasures of a Beat Collage Artist: Adam Worden at the Salt Lake Art Center
by Jean Arnold
Sometimes life is stranger than fiction; something happens in our lives that we never could have imagined beforehand. In 2000, when I first met my cousin, Lee Worden, at a mutual cousin’s wedding, I knew little about his father, Adam, nor Adam’s partner Bhavani, or their children Lee and Anandi. I had heard the family had an herbal business in California, and that Adam was a very quiet, withdrawn man, but little else. I was excited to finally meet Lee, and to learn more about this part of the family. Being a professional artist myself, I was shocked and thrilled to find out that my uncle Adam had been a Beat Generation collage artist. Lee showed me a few fuzzy photos of his father’s collages, and gave a web address where he had posted some of the collages. I felt saddened that I would never meet my uncle, who had died the previous year.
On visiting the website, I was enchanted by the works’ gentle poetry, humor, and rich blend of patterns and materials. I saw that my uncle had a thorough grasp of collage, a sophisticated visual vocabulary, and a highly personal voice. Lee told me that Adam had been a self-taught artist; to educate himself he visited gallery and museum exhibits regularly and subscribed to art magazines. I knew I wanted to travel to San Francisco to meet my other cousin, Anandi, to see the work first hand, and to learn more about my uncle the artist.
In November 2002, I made the trip to San Francisco. On a sunny, still day Lee, Anandi and I pulled the boxes out of the storage unit onto the asphalt outside. Collage after collage, I was astonished at the work I saw. His juxtapositions of humor and tragedy, macro and micro, sacred and mundane, Eastern and Western in striking compositions, colors, and spatial shifts were genius. I saw that Adam did all this using scraps from everyday life such as comic books, wallpaper, candy wrappers, fireworks posters, paperback covers, and magazines.