Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Thoughts on Assemblage

Remnants of Everyday Life
I don't think outside the box; I think of what I can do with the box. 
                                             -Albert Einstein

Well my run of getting into gallery exhibitions has come to an end. While it is disappointing, I am continuing to push myself to enter. I have to say that I really thought my piece "Remnants  of Everyday Life" fit the prospectus perfectly for "Common Objects." I am looking forward to attending the opening. 

I do not know why it has taken me so long to embrace making assemblages. As a child I was fascinated by Joseph Cornell's (1903-1972) boxes that were on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. And even as an adult, I always stop by and visit them.

Cornell  is one of the earliest assemblage artists with his work placed in shadow boxes. He had no formal art training and he did not attend college. It wasn't until the 1940s that he started making any significant money from his artwork. He had a fear of strangers and never married. He had a passionate, but platonic, relationship with Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama while she was living in New York in the mid-1960s.  Kusama is an interesting person and artist on her own. She is still making art at 87! If you don't know her work, check it out. I love how her clothes match her artwork.

Exploring Pinterest, I discovered the assemblage work of Hannelore Baron (1926-1987) . Unlike Cornell's boxes which invite us into a personal and idiosyncratic universe, Hannelore's boxes are damaged, sealed and forbidding. We are unsure of the exact contents. She escaped from Nazi Germany and ended up in New York. She is also a self-taught artist who was highly successful. I was thrilled when I discovered her. 

Cornell influenced Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008). Rauschenberg created his "combines" series (1954-1964) "using found objects in random juxtaposition in order to unleash the unconscious mind by free association." I do not worry about people's unconscious mind when viewing my work, but this quote has made me think.

I can still remember being in some heated debates over The Bed, one of Rauschenberg's first "combines," by quiltmakers who did not like how he used a quilt. I thought it interesting and elevated quilts. I was more annoyed that the quilt is often referred to as a "blanket." From MOMA's Learning site, "Legend has it that these are Rauschenberg's own pillow and blanket, which he used when he could not afford to buy a new canvas. Hung on the wall like a traditional painting, his bed, still made, becomes a sort of intimate self-portrait consistent with Rauschenberg's assertion that 'painting relates to both art and life... [and] I try to act in that gap between the two.'"

To be clear, I do not think my work holds a candle to the artists I have shared with you today. And it wasn't until I began putting my assemblages together that I realized how much the fascination of certain artists from my youth are now providing me with not only inspiration but courage. 

I have had conversation after conversation with friends about how our children have no interest in our "stuff."  My assemblages are filled with family "stuff" that was passed down to me or I dug out of the trash. I wonder why these items were kept while others with thrown or given away. Remnants is full of these items.  Robert's (my father's legal guardian) last pair of glasses. My grandfather's shaving brush. Why did my dad save my first pair of roller skates then wait more than 40 years to give them back to me? What happened to the child's spoon? Who ate with the fork? When "Mirage" hung during ARC Gallery's Home exhibition, I was happiest when I saw people lean into and spend time looking at it instead of just glancing and walking by. I want to draw people in. I want people to think about the items they keep. What do you have stored away? What memory does it hold?

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