Sunfrog, Baby Fish, pseudonyms and the making of a collage

August Creter Copy Editor

As the artistic community in Cookeville grows, long-time local artists are getting their shine. Local artist Sunfrog will present his first solo exhibit at the Tiny Cloak during May.

Sunfrog, commonly known around town by his birth name Andrew Smith, is a professor at Tech who has spent most of his life creating art, with collages being his current focus. A collage is a collection of pre-existing images and text, reassembled to create a unique visual experience.

“My interest in collage really comes from my interest in fanzines,” Sunfrog explained. Fanzines are DIY books and magazines usually created by individuals or small groups, commonly being homemade, as something to share with peers of the community.

“During the 1980s, DIY people made fanzines to pass around to their friends and sometimes sell, but for me it was always the intersection of radical activism, radical art and DIY music,” Sunfrog said.

“The most famous fanzine I was personally the curator of was called ‘Baby Fish Lost Its Momma’ and it came out with six issues between 1988 and 1994,” he added. “Up until the last one which had a much more professional aesthetic, the layout we did was scissors and glue, so the layout of the magazine itself was like chaotic and sloppy and in your face, with text and image mixed together in a collage style.”

The name Sunfrog was adopted as a pen name for Smith’s work on “Baby Fish…” when he lived in Detroit. “I ran with performance artists and hippies and punk rockers back in my twenties, and people always took on nom de plumes, pseudonyms, aliases, so it was not even a thing. Once I found Sunfrog, it was a no brainer,” he said.

“I love the amphibian because it can adjust to land and water, so it’s adaptable,” Sunfrog said. “It also applies to my Libra astrology, which is balance between the dark and light or up and down. Adding the Sun to that adds another major element. We have water, land, and fire all in my nickname.”

When visiting Sunfrog, his home was just what I expected – covered in different artistic media including collages, physical music, and eye-grabbing handmade art. After generously offering dinner, he showed his collection of trippy, heartfelt collages being featured at his exhibit.

“For me, this body of work is a little bit trippy and I’m working on the idea of a mystical, visionary experience, so I do use some very recognizable religious iconography… Now this one [referencing another collage] is outer space but also Jim Morrison and the Grateful Dead, so there is an element to my style that is like a vision board or a scrapbook.”

“My idea of collage is like mystical, hippie, multimedia, multicolored journey to a different and delicious place.”

Sunfrog’s art will be on display at the Tiny Cloak in Cookeville throughout the month of May. The Tiny Cloak is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12-5 p.m. and art can be purchased at reasonable prices, with a portion going back to the Tiny Cloak.

“I feel like life is always these assorted parts that get shuffled and reassembled, so that for me is what collaging is. It’s taking found images, cutting them up and reassembling in a new way to evoke and create a new experience for the viewer.”