Back in 1980, a young Morten Ender lived in Germany but was planning to visit friends in Naples, Italy. In preparing to head there, his friends said they’d be spending the summer on the islands in the Mediterranean selling arts and crafts to tourists, and he should go with them.
“I said I don’t make anything,” Ender recalled this week, noting that he was aware that Europeans encourage the making of arts and crafts. “But, I pressed some flowers and took them, and they sold!”
That encouraged him, once he was back home in Germany, to keep making simple collages of pressed flowers and selling them at local craft fairs for extra money.
“The Germans seemed to love them,” he says.
Fast forward to 2017. Ender, a professor at West Point, is a 20-year resident of Highland Falls. He’s an accomplished author — his seventh book, with Dr. Michael Matthews from Cornwall, is about diversity and inclusion in the military and will be released next month. He and his wife Corina, a Social Studies teacher at Ketcham High School in Dutchess County, have one son, Axel, who is a soccer player and Fashion and Business Studies major at Marist College.
Ender is the kind of guy who likes to keep busy — as is evidenced by writing those books, and a passion for running. But, in his spare time, he, to this day, relaxes by collaging.
And that leads to his new exhibit at the Highland Falls Library, which runs now through the end of May, with a reception this Saturday, April 8 from 4-6 P.M. in the Library’s Community Room.
He has 35 framed pieces in his show, collages mostly. Throughout the last 30-plus years he’s moved beyond pressed flowers (although there are some of those) to intricate collages of regular items you see every day — namely old credit cards, fruit stickers, and even the little doohickeys that hold a loaf of bread closed.
Why collect those mundane items and turn them into art? Ender isn’t quite sure himself.
“Growing up as a military child, I think you hang on to a lot of stuff because you have no sense of place,” he said. “I tend to save everything — I have a pile of concert posters in the attic, ticket stubs, nametags from every conference I’ve ever been to. I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision to save things, I just felt they had meaning.”
Which brings us to fruit stickers.
“They’re bright and colorful,” he said. “I don’t really know …. it’s incredibly simplistic what I do.”
He demonstrated the process, literally peeling a sticker from a piece of fruit he was eating and sticking it to a collage-in-the-works in a folder he keeps on a craft table in his home. The paper was simple printer paper, and the design in progress looked kind of like a star.
“I find it relaxing, and I like the idea of repurposing things,” he said.
About those chopped up credit card pieces you’ll see if you visit the show … “they’re all expired, so no one should get any ideas about trying to steal the numbers off them,” he laughed.
Ender says while he has been collaging for a long time, a part of what motivated him to approach Library Director Suzanne Brahm about showing his work was the ongoing ArtWalk event in Highland Falls.
“It’s inspired me for the last couple of years,” he said. “When you see art, you think ‘I can do that’.
A hope he has, too, is that others in the community will join him in showing off what they do, making use of the space the library has to offer.
“It’s a great space,” he said, “and I’d like to see others’ works.”
Ender’s pieces are for sale, with all proceeds going to the charity he and his family support, the Munich Alumni Fund. It provides scholarship funds to low income military families living overseas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org