It’s an orange, plastic barrier designed to keep people from entering the street. It’s also a de facto magnet for stickers and graffiti scrawls — which is why Jay Riggio decided it was the perfect place to attach his sticker work, The Infinite Thoughts of Lara. Riggio spent hours collaging the artwork that morphed into a single sticker on a street barrier by Golden Gate Park’s Panhandle.
Lara is a fictional character. Riggio says his stickers are like “visual poems,” using surrealist collages instead of words to convey heady narratives.
In the sticker, Lara is holding snakes as she wears a fantastical dress that juts out like a helium balloon and has a bottom that looks like it’s a wooden fort. Her face is tucked into what could be a giant piece of jewelry. The Infinite Thoughts of Lara has a bit of an Alice in Wonderland vibe. Riggio placed it on the orange barrier a year ago, when it was located someplace else and he was visiting San Francisco from his home in Los Angeles. At the time, his girlfriend was getting her Ph.D. in San Francisco.
“The name ‘Lara’ is the title of a non-existent poem,” Riggio tells SF Weekly by phone.
Riggio does all his collages by hand, cutting and gluing disparate images from old magazines and books he gets from garage sales, secondhand stores, and even garbage cans.
“People are throwing away stuff, I’ll pull it out of their garbage,” he says.
From these original analog works come the smaller stickers that have found their way to walls and other public surfaces around the world. Riggio has more than 20,000 followers on Instagram, but seeing his works on a phone — crowded next to other collaged images in a continuous gallery — is different from seeing them on a barrier section by Golden Gate Park. The street sticker doesn’t advertise its title. To those who happen to notice, its collaged elements, employing items that could be a century old, are like getting caught in a time warp. But passers-by have to guess what warp that is, since Riggio tries to hide the origins of his collages — even from himself.
“I don’t even know where I pull stuff from,” says Riggio, whose L.A. workspace is crammed with magazines and other materials, something he says could be classified as hoarding. “Even if I do use a face, I try to obscure it as best I can, because I don’t like to reference anything when I’m making my own work unless I’m making a commission.”
Riggio could easily do his original collages on a computer — but there’s no way that would suit his practice.
”There’s something about the craft of making something with my hands that I identify with more. And when you’re working with original materials — cutting and pasting — you’re very limited to imagery that you have in front of you,” he says. “I feel the work becomes more spontaneous and pure. If I was sitting in front of a computer, I could flip, resize, and download images — anything you want. It’s similar to a painter with a paintbrush versus a graphic designer with a paintbrush tool and Photoshop.”