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One Love; Grafton's Laura Dodge to display her collages at Worcester cafe.

Byline: Susan Shalhoub

Laura Dodge wanted to use the shiny rocks to create a waterfall in the collage she was creating. But they were too big.

"I had these blue glass beads I needed crushed, so - you're going to laugh - I had my neighbor run over them with her car," Ms. Dodge said. The 87-year-old artist, who works primarily in collage, jewelry and quilting, may have found art late in life but now she is creating beautiful works on her own terms. And if that involves a vehicle crushing beads for her latest creation, so be it. "Then another neighbor said, `Here, I'll try my pickup truck,'" but that didn't break them all up, she said. There were quite a few people gathered around by this time, she admits. "I took a hammer to them because I was determined to crush them."

Mrs. Dodge, a great-grandmother of four, lives in senior housing in Grafton. Her neighbors have come to know her as an artist. Donated batches of old magazines, greeting cards and scenic calendars show up at her door now for her paper collages, she said, and she takes them and makes magic all her own. And this magic is getting attention as she readies for a month-long exhibit of her work at One Love Cafe on Main Street in Worcester in December.

"I didn't know I was artistic."

It was about 20 years ago when Mrs. Dodge started making quilts with her husband, Frederick, who passed away six years ago. At first, she got frustrated with the whole quilting process. "I got a lot of it cut out and couldn't make the points line up," she said. Mr. Dodge, a retired carpenter, lined it up perfectly and did her blocking for her. The two worked on quilts together for many years after that. Mr. Dodge even built her a quilt rack out of mahogany.

When Mr. Dodge died, Mrs. Dodge had to adjust to being without him. She said her neighbors, Tasha and Stephen Halpert, came into her life at just the right time. "I didn't know what to do with myself," she said. Quilting became too difficult to do alone. She had been making jewelry with wire wraps and natural stone. But Mr. Halpert - also an artist - got her started in collages and the rest is history. "I didn't know I had it in me," she said. "I had no idea that I had any artistic ability at all. But now I can see things in magazines and put them together in my mind and I have a bit of depth to my pictures," she said.

Her works are generally paper or cardboard on canvas. Mrs. Dodge cuts up interesting patterns or colors in paper as she comes across them. She likes using pictures of Monet paintings, for the color play. And creating collages gives her great freedom. "I can rearrange the lily pond with people and bridges," she said, "or I can paint over it." Sometimes she has an idea of what she wants to create, sometimes she doesn't. Paper elements deemed to have potential either get stacked up on her worktable or are organized into albums for future use. UHU glue sticks are her favorite for sticking on pieces and it all gets a coat of Mod Podge to stay flat, she said. "I do it when I feel like it and usually don't stop until it's done," she said. "Sometimes I'm up until 1 o'clock in the morning because I can't stop."

It took her an entire year of collecting paper scraps to prepare her creation she calls her Kinkade picture. Consisting in part of a Thomas Kinkade art calendar, her work turned it into a different collaged village scene on a 10-inch by 12-inch canvas, with small structures, buildings and a stream.

Though this mode of art has come to Mrs. Dodge late in life, she finds it beneficial and recommends art to seniors. "People that are sitting around saying, `I have nothing to do,' can still do this," she said. "It's very relaxing, you can use your imagination and time goes by very quickly," she said.

"She is the Grandma Moses of collage," Ms. Halpert told TelegramTowns last year. "Her work is so gentle and sensitive. I'm just happy that people ... will have a chance to see it."

If you go

What: Laura Dodge art show

Where: One Love Cafe, 800 Main St., Worcester

When: Opens Dec. 3, through the end of the month

For more: (508) 753-8663



CUTLINE: (1) Laura Dodge works on a collage in her Grafton home. (2) "Garden Timeout." (3) "Eskimo Fisherman."
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 10, 2011
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