Cohort 52 is a platform for emerging voices from the Applied Art & Design program at Sierra College in Northern California. Cohort 52 is facilitated by Assistant Professor Vincent Pacheco.


Kaiya Gunther

“Although the making of the collages undoubtedly altered my perception of them, the central theme—that life is beautiful—has remained consistent. .



Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

My name is Kaiya Gunther, and I moved about a lot growing up, hardly ever attending the same school. As a result, I have gained and lost a lot of friends over the years. I had a lot of trouble with the concept of being by myself without any solid connections to anchor me, and at one point I lost hope in making friends. Eventually, I understood that instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, I should live in the present.


How much experience do you have with collage?

I don’t believe I’ve ever created a complete collage like this. The most I’ve ever accomplished was organizing a photo album and embellishing images with stickers and backdrops.


Collage artists tend to be picky when it comes to their source material. Can you talk about your approach for selecting your images and/or publications?

Due to the photographs’ compatibility with my topic and my love of vivid and intriguing photography, I mostly chose Sunset and Via magazines.


Were there any large themes you intended to explore or unpack before you began with this series of work? Did you stay on theme, or did things change as you began physically cutting and pasting images?

The main theme I explored was that, even if life is challenging, you only have one chance to live, therefore people should make the most of it and appreciate it. My initial focus was the beauty of life, but when I tore the pictures apart and saw the struggles in a person’s life, my focus changed to the beauty of life despite its challenges. Therefore, I would say that I did stay on topic, but as I went through the process, my notion expanded.


How did your background and life experiences inform your collages?

My upbringing and experiences have helped me to comprehend how isolating and challenging life can be. But, it also made it clearer to me that every decision we make in life shapes how we see the world and how we live in it. So even if life is challenging, we have the option to either embrace it or wallow in it.

In addition, I think that my lack of life experiences also had an impact on my collages because I didn’t feel like I captured all of life in them. There’s so much that I haven’t done yet which might explain why I only explored moments up to having a family and nothing past that. Because of this, I believe that it leaves the story unfinished. However, I believe that the design effectively conveys that my life is still in its early stages and that there is still more to come.


What was your environment and set-up like when making the work? Did you listen to music? Did you work in isolation, or were you surrounded by distraction? Do you think this influenced the work you made?

During the creation process, I sat on the floor with magazines and torn up pages scattered all around me. I created the collages while alternating between listening to music and sitting in silence.As a result, I felt that I was playing with puzzle pieces while seated amid an immense pile of clutter. I believe this had a significant impact on the work I produced because it allowed me to fully express my creative imagination, explore the major and supporting ideas, and let go of the need for perfection.


Scissors or X-Acto?

When I first started, I cut out some of the images with scissors, but I mostly just tore them out by hand to make the rough, uneven edges.


Was there anything unexpected that emerged while creating your work? Any new epiphanies?

I had this idea in my head before starting the assignment: I would create a clean, lovely collage that highlights the positive aspects of life. After removing a few pictures, though, I realized that I didn’t like how straight and pristine they were coming out because that’s not at all how life is. I started tearing pages out, letting go of perfection, after realizing that I needed to include a sloppy and raw look for this to feel honest and realistic.


Looking at your work again, has your understanding of your collages changed over time? Has any hidden meaning emerged?

Although the making of the collages undoubtedly altered my perception of them, the central theme—that life is beautiful—has remained consistent. In addition, sub-themes in each collage emerged, spanning from concepts of wonder and individuality to change and family.


Many artists are using the pandemic as a moment to pause and reflect. Do you think Covid-19 informed your work in any way? 

I think that covid has affected both my perspective on the world and my artistic style. Many people experienced hardship during this time, and many were devastated and lost all sense of purpose in life. But it was a terrific method to connect with our emotions and truly look inside of ourselves. And, it serves as an excellent example of why we should appreciate life since it is better to make the most of the present rather than dwell on the past or the future.