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.


Keira Mooney

“I think the pandemic heavily influenced my first few collages. 




Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

My name is Keira Mooney. I am an 18 year old college student with hopes of pursuing a career in the video game business. I would like to work in art production or directing, but as of right now would like to focus on the design aspects of video games. I have always been interested in art, so I knew I wanted to go into a career that allows me to do something creative every day. I love to thrift, spend time with those closest to me, and do creative things of all sorts. I feel most accomplished when I make things I am proud of; for example, these 15 collages.


How much experience do you have with collage?

Other than the poster collage our class created on the first day, these were my first collages I have ever made. The first two, I remember, took me around 4 hours to make. I was really overthinking my layouts and designs. Although I knew the direction I was taking for each piece, it was really difficult for me to fully put them together. I was also still trying to find my style within collage making. I am not used to getting so much creative direction within projects, so that was something else I was overcoming. But after those first pieces, I was able to create quicker and not overthink each choice I made.


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?

For the most part, I used a lot of magazines and art books as source material. I already had a few art magazines from the 90s or early 2000s around, and started to find clippings within those. I also used vintage drawing or painting books as material. These books are huge, with step by step images on how to draw portraits, scenery, all sorts of things. Most of the women I used in my collages were from these books, as well as the nature images. Other materials I used that aren’t considered publications are things like ribbon and lace. In my first collages, you’ll notice that I have thin lines in some parts of the layout. These signify disconnects within the theme of each image. The lace and ribbon lines then sort of began to replace the original lines, but in some way were meant to represent the same thing. I then ended up using ribbons or lace for design purposes only.


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?

I didn’t intend to explore any themes that were specific to large groups of people, as my first idea of my collages ended up being the idea I stuck with. I knew I wanted to explore my own perception of the world and how it has changed, as well as the blissful take I have as an 18 year old. I stayed on theme pretty much the whole time, but found that some of the collages in a way had double meanings for me.


How did your background and life experiences inform your collages?

My, specifically life experiences, heavily informed my collages. In summer 2022, I became pretty depressed, definitely the worst I have ever felt mentally. It was kind of building up and did last a bit past the summer, but I know that those few months were the worst of it. I don’t remember it too well, but I do know I didn’t really find anything in my life that kept me super happy or motivated. I suppose I unknowingly began to feel better, and by fall I began developing new friendships and an unexpected relationship. I would say these single-handedly changed my perception of the world. Getting to experience a new intimate, close friendship with another woman; the conversation, the comfort, everything about it was something I hadn’t had since my previous best friends. My relationship, although it sounds cheesy, in a way saved me. After meeting my boyfriend, Brendon, I feel as though I saw the world differently and felt human again. Little things that I would normally overlook began to stand out to me again, and the feeling of love radiated through me. I had never felt anything like this before, and what made it that much sweeter was the fact I wasn’t even looking for love. I feel this really fits the part of my theme in which I explore my blissful view of the world because it demonstrates young love and the little things people who have more years than me may overlook.


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?

The environment I chose to create my work in was my bedroom. I sat on my bed with all my book clippings sprawled out all over the comforter, piled so that I could use them for specific pieces. For the most part, I just listened to music while creating my collages, mostly ambient music or music that is on the calm side. The only distraction I encountered was my 8 year old cousin. One of the days I was more stressed creating my pieces, some family came over. I thought I would be annoyed having her in my room and talking nonstop while I worked, but she ended up giving me an idea for my piece titled Blossoming. My environment definitely influenced the work I made, more specifically the music. I feel as though my music taste is very similar to the themes of my pieces.


Scissors or X-Acto?

X-Acto knives. I always prefer to use them to get clean, straight edges. I didn’t really use scissors when creating my collages other than to cut ribbon or lace. Also, the paper that wasn’t cut straight I purposefully ripped to get rough edges.


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

Nothing too unexpected happened while creating my works. If anything, it just really solidified the way I feel about the people closest to me. I knew how deep my appreciation ran for them, but when it is shown through art it feels different. It was also nice to see the reaction when I showed someone a piece that I based around my care for them.


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

I feel as though most of my collages stuck to the same meaning as I originally intended them to have. The only one I can think of that emerged with another meaning was my piece “Exploring Femininity”. I originally had written down ideas based on noticing the sweet things about life that most people don’t notice, one of those being the details on women’s lingerie. Every piece of women’s underwear has little bows or ribbon or lace. Other ideas being heart shaped leaves or simple interactions between others. After deciding to create the underwear, I developed the idea of how it represents femininity and not being uncomfortable with things like underwear or undergarments.


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 the pandemic heavily influenced my first few collages. As I previously mentioned, I went through pretty severe mental health issues in summer 2022. I believe they really began to become prominent during the pandemic, but I didn’t realize it at the time. I was trapped alone with just my own thoughts, and I definitely became an increasingly more anxious person. Without that experience, I don’t think I would have even made the first collages to comment on the way I was feeling during that time.