Stephen Kroninger Profile
posted: February 13, 2007
I recently met with Stephen Kroninger, 50, in his West Village studio, and after ushering out his twin 8-year-old daughters and their cats, he showed me the huge Grand Central Station scene he's working on and talked about how he came to collage in the first place.

"I don't remember ever not drawing, but there are two things that I can remember drawing when I was very little. One was drawing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show as bugs and my grandmother going on and on about how funny she thought it was, and I thought, "You get lot of attention with this!" And the other time was when I was about 6 and my mother was a volunteer for the church bazaar. At the end of it, she was helping to clean up, and they had these white sheets of paper on tables, so they gave me a pen just to keep me busy, so they could clean without being bothered by a little kid. So I started drawing this cowboy scene and people gathered around on the other side of table. I drew it upside down, so they could see the drawing right side up, and everybody was rooting me on. You know, I was distracting, I guess, in an entirely different way, because everybody started to come over to look at this kid drawing a cowboy scene upside down.

"In elementary school, I was known as an artistic kid. Now, there are different kinds of artistic kids; there are the funny artistic kids and there are artistic artistic kids; I was the funny one. I mean, there are kids that can draw great renderings of the entire school in perspective, in third grade. That wasn't me. But I could entertain them!

"In high school I used to draw like snide, wise cracking type of cartoons about the different rules and policies in the school and I remember my mother writing me this exasperated note, "Must you draw these things?" But my mother always encouraged me, even if she didn't agree or understand what I was drawing, and she got me drawing lessons on Saturday.

"My dad was a garbage man, and I used to work with him on the truck on weekends and holidays. I had a great time with my father. My father used to say, "Whenever you go with me there's more junk in the cab than there is in the truck!" Because I would find books and magazines and pictures and photos and I'd save 'em all.

"I didn’t start doing collage until '82. Steve Brodner actually published my first collage, in a magazine he was doing, which was like an 8-page newspaper thing, called the New York Illustrated News. He and Philip Burke had started it. I don’t know how I got invited in, but I was invited work on it, and at the time I was very influenced by Ralph Steadman and George Grosz kind of stuff. So I was doing this drawing for an anti-nuclear war show for Steve Heller, and I kept drawing it and kept drawing it and it kept looking like Grosz or Steadman or something. So, in the end, I just took it and cut it up and all the source pictures and put them in a collage and it worked. People really liked it and it did well in the show.

"I was also very into hip hop, which was a big influence. There was a record called the Adventures of Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five on the Wheels of Steel. It was one of the first big sampling records, and it had a big effect on me. They were doing sort of the same thing, but with music: they were sampling other people’s music and sounds and creating something that was their own. I liked the whole idea that I was taking advertising images and political images and photographs of politicians and stuff and then making them mine, and saying what I want to say rather than what they want to say.

"The most anxiety that I have in my work is the gluing, because I always think I'm going to wreck it. When I see it when it's all cut out and not glued down, I think, "That's exactly what I want!" Years and years ago I had an assistant, and when I asked him to glue something for me, he couldn't do it. He was like moving the pieces all over the place and I didn't realize till then that it was a whole ballet in itself, lifting things up to glue them down.

"In my old studio my table was right in front of the window and sometimes the wind would blow the pieces and I would just look at it blow away. Even now the cats will walk on my stuff, and I'll have to fix it up. They have a lot more freedom than I have.

"I look at my work as drawing with scissors. But I still do a lot of drawing and sketching with a pencil. It keeps me loose. It's almost like warm up exercises. I actually made a rule for myself when I was a kid, probably in junior high or so, where I had to do a drawing every day. And when I'd go to bed, and I'd be drifting off and I realized I didn't do any drawing, I would force myself to get out of bed and sit and draw something, even if it was only a little face or something, just so I'd have drawn that day. And that's kind of carried over till now."