Above: Skull made by Haroshi out of broken skateboard decks.
I used to collect art and political manifestos. But after the introduction of the internet and starting a family, I couldn't keep up with the proliferation of ideologies. For some, every tweet is a manifesto so I will take that to heart and keep this brief as well. A micro-manifesto, if you will.
Many, many artists, my self included, have come to the conclusion that if we are going to make something let's reuse cast off or pre-owned materials. The Tate's website defines assemblage as "art that is made by assembling disparate elements—often everyday objects—scavenged by the artist or bought specially." Some artists like the sense of nostalgia and history in old items. Others enjoy the raw textures of Art Brut and oxidized patinas of Arte Povera. In the last couple of decades, though, an increasing number of artists has realized that to consume new materials in the creation of art contributes to environmental harm. They seek to create bodies of sustainable, post-consumerism work.
With that choice, comes the ick factor that surrounds cast off materials as unwanted waste and garbage. People don't want to see art made out of packaging. That stuff is only fit for landfills! Overcoming this prejudice is where the artist's challenge lies. The artist is tasked with taking cast off materials and refining them into something psychologically, socially, and environmentally valuable. Artists that can do this are tantamount to alchemists.
I am not there yet. My work is a combination of used items, some pre-owned beads and thread, and a lot of new beads. I design my work for public display, but I also want it to be pleasant to live and work with, as well as aesthetically enriching.
Other artists, though, are working with some really rough and maligned materials. There are a lot of artists working with cast off packaging. Most of them are pure environmental artists. They are open-minded and I really respect them. Their work is not always meant to be nice to live with. Sometimes it is solely meant to be displayed publicly and to communicate serious existential threats to life on on Earth—including ourselves—created by ourselves.
Here are some assemblage alchemists and their works made out of trash. I hope these examples help you feel a little more appreciation for fine art made out of humble materials. It's important that we don't overlook it just because the art materials are humble.
First up, Jason Rogenes makes futuristic backlit sculptures out of styrofoam. The lighting is where the magic happens.
El Anatsui from Ghana makes sculptures out of scrap packaging. Africans are good at using everything. I'm guessing it's because they haven't been hammered as much with advertising about the ideals of the disposable consumer lifestyle. Just a guess from an ignorant American. (You are welcome to let me know how ignorant in the comments.)
Angela Haseltine Pozzi collected plastic objects off the beach and created public sculptures of sea creatures out of them. The plastic in the ocean is being eaten by the fish that we, in turn, eat. This is neither appetizing or healthy for anybody in the food chain.
I love assemblage made from cast-off or pre-owned items. I could go on and on listing more artists. I'd love to see examples of your favorite assemblage artists. Tell me about them in the comments!
I am preparing for a workshop I am leading with the Midwest Collage Society on May 1. I did this tutorial for any of the artists interested in how bead weaving works. I don't think I will play the whole thing, but now I have a tutorial, if anyone is interested.
We'll be talking about using beads and bead weaving as elements in collages and assemblages. I will also bring beads for them to string and use on 2nd-hand glassware for them to make little beaded votive holders just to give them a mini how-to on the process.
I'll give them tips on adhesives, different beadweaving techniques, needles, bead selection, and upcycling used items.
That reminds me. I need to put together a Powerpoint to guide us through these topics including samples of my work as they relate to collage/assemblage.
I'm pleased with the cohesiveness of the group of art works I was able to enter.
Gallery Seven in Lockport, IL
September 7-9: Notification of selected works via e-mail
September 23-26: Delivery of Work
September 30: “Illiart” opens
October 3: Opening Reception 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
October31: “Illiart” Closes
Uh-oh-- "Work that requires special installation or instructions will NOT be accepted." Reader, the show accepts every media except video and film, so I don't know what they are going to do for installation art pieces. Most sculpture is somewhat challenging to display.
Anyway, it is in the jurors hands now. Jurors are people with their own tastes, skill levels, pet media and their own ideas for what kind of show they want they want to build.
So, I started editing some of my portfolio archive photos in Lightroom. After a couple of days of tutorials and videos, they are a hair better. I am still learning the program. I am trying to create a few good-enough pictures to post to Behance and hopefully make some connections there. The ultimate goal is to connect with architects.
Goldilocks Panopticon 1, 2021, is a woven glass and reflective bead tile mosaic on a full dome security mirror with optional chain for suspending it from a ceiling or beam. It is part of the Panoption series. I am working on a 36" GP2.
Below are some WIP shots:
There are two more Goldilocks spinoffs. One is a vase still in progress and this little study was given as a birthday gift.
'Honeymoon Panopticon, the second piece in the Panopticon Series, was inspired by a lack of consent, betrayal of romantic intimacy, and a smart phone. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
Unfortunately, the problem of lack of consent isn’t limited to intimate interpersonal relationships. It has become a concern worldwide. This results in an imbalance of power between the subjects of data collection and those who use it.
The Panopticon Series explores both the benefits and drawbacks of humanity's new capabilities to observe each other, our world, and our universe.
The piece is a woven bead tile mosaic on a 36" convex security mirror. Each tile is woven into the shape of a heart with reflective, pearly, and iridescent beads.
This piece will be debuted at Sculpture at the Kavanagh opening March 26, 2021. You can view the exhibition in person or through a virtual exhibition.
More info at the Fine Line Art Center's web site.
Drops of Jupiter was started in March and finished at the end of July 2020. I didn't have a plan for this when I started. C-19 quarantine had just started and I had finished Juicy Sunrise and had a lot of purple and pink beads and a weird purple vase on hand. At some point in the weaving I heard a sweet cover of "Drops of Jupiter" by Taylor Swift and designed off that. I don't have any art world influences for this one at all just the song and the stratified layers of Jupiter's atmosphere. Some scientists suggest (citation needed) that the composition and conditions in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn may cause diamond precipitation. So that pink reflective-bead cloud suspended within the globe of the vase has a little crystal-drop chandelier.
Design note: This piece was made out of a purple vase, but unlike the other vases I've done this one isn't a vase anymore. You can't put flowers or whatever in it because I nestled a bead cloud in the hole to suspend the chandelier cloud from. I'm calling it an assemblage sculpture with woven elements.
(I feel guilty that I didn't provide a reference for where the diamond rain on Jupiter thing came from in the explanation above, so I found some videos that can give you an overview.)
Julie Mars' current events, projects, & inspirations.