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.


Sarah Bietz

“I pulled out books full of images that attracted me. Once I had a stack, I saw a common theme of poking fun at humanity.”



Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

My name is Sarah Bietz and I’m working on earning a certificate in Graphic Design to broaden my career opportunities. I’m already applying what I’ve learned so far to my job as a training supervisor. I create a lot of training materials, such as PowerPoints, intraweb pages, informational handouts, etc.. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English and Art Studio from UC Davis.


How much experience do you have with collage?

I have a minimal amount of experience with collage. It was a common assignment during the first few weeks of an art class, but it was never given much weight or emphasis. This class has given me a new appreciation for the medium.


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?

I am definitely picky with my materials. Having interesting, high quality materials makes the creative process much more enjoyable for me. I went shopping for used books knowing that I wanted to create something lighthearted and fun. I pulled out books full of images that attracted me. Once I had a stack, I saw a common theme of poking fun at humanity.


For example, why do humans have the impulse to dress up, play pretend, and perform like they do in A Pictorial History of the American Theatre (1860-1980) by Daniel Blum? Why do we put people on thrones in funny hats like in the Kings & Queens of Britain by Josephine Ross? The baby portraits in Down in the Garden by Anne Geddes and the comics in Drawing Room Only: A Book of Cartoons by Garrett Price are unessential to our survival as a species, and yet these books exist and have a market. I can say the same for Gardner’s Art Through the Ages II by Richard G. Tansey and Fred S. Kleiner, Treasury of Great American Homes by Henry Lionel Williams and Ottalie K. Williams, and Forgotten Edens by National Geographic, but I say it with a smile. I’m glad humanity pursues more than survival. I wanted to remind my audience that silliness is something to celebrate.


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 theme and feeling I was pursuing remained the same as I created the collages, but by the end of the project, I was better able to put it into words and came up with the title, A Colorful History of Human Frivolity.


How did your background and life experiences inform your collages?

I am a recovering perfectionist. I used to take myself, art, and life far too seriously. It was paralyzing. I did not allow myself to play, experiment, or fail, all of which are required to create art. I spent years without creating. I hope someone sees my collages and is inspired to embrace joy and silliness instead. It’s very liberating.


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?

I listened to the TV show Murdoch Mysteries, which is a period drama series set in Toronto, Canada in the 1890s. It was good background noise and probably encouraged me to lean into the historical theme of the collages.


Scissors or X-Acto?

Scissors to get closer to the target. Then X-Acto for the detailing and precision work.


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

After years of perfectionism, I’m still surprised when I finish a project and like it. Before COVID, I disliked everything I created and didn’t want to look at it. Now, I like having my artworks displayed where I can see them.


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

If there is a hidden meaning, it’s still hidden!


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

The COVID era was a blur of isolation, depression, and anxiety for me. It certainly influenced my life because I realized that passively waiting for things to get better wasn’t sustainable. I put a lot of work into healing and I think it’s changed my perception of my work more than anything else. I focus on enjoying and appreciating the process more and worry less about what other people think of the result or if it’s “good enough.”