Adventures in Assemblage
Partners, Part 2
Meditation and the Part-Time Painter
News for August
Interview with Karyn Lewis
Adventures in AssemblageWombat Droppings
by Ursula Vernon
So over the last week, I've been fooling with a new artform.
It's called "assemblage" which in practice means "Lots of stuff you didn't make, slapped together in strange new ways". Somewhere between sculpture and collage. You can find a lot of fascinating assemblage art online -- Michael de Meng is a favorite of mine -- you can also find a lot of dreadful schlock, of course. Often the dreadful schlock is put out by intensely sincere people and comes with agonizingly earnest statements about the positive energy the world is sending their way on this glorious journey called life, all of which makes your jaded and cynical Aunt Ursula die a little inside and go for the bottle.
It's not that it's bad art, either. That's the killer. Sure, plenty of it is recycled Victorian barf, but there's a lot of stuff that's actually quite competent and you want to grab people and go "You're good! This is good stuff! You don't need to put "Dream! Hope! Create!" on everything, for Christ's sake!"
Then I think these things and feel horrifically guilty, because A) these people seem so earnest and well-meaning and no one should make them feel ashamed of their work, and B) who am I judge what makes something art, and just because I find all these random happy phrases cloying doesn't make it bad and C) for all I know, somebody out there has "Inspire! Grow! Create!" on their wall and it's helping.
This may fall into one of my mother's axioms -- namely that just because something is good therapy doesn't necessarily mean it's good art. Unfortunately, if I start analyzing these things too closely, I have to lump "art" in with "evil", in that I have no good definition but I think I know it when I see it.
(Completely and totally unrelated, I really need to get some of these wine glasses out of the studio or I'm going to have to start drinking like Hemingway, out of coffee mugs.)
Maybe there are two kinds of people in the world. Given the option to put text on a piece of found-object art, some people choose "miracle" and "be the change you want to see happen!" and some people choose "and then the fish ate my head."
No, wait -- there are at least three kinds of people in the world, because some grizzled old artists growl about putting text of any kind of art and when you suggest it they tell you that if you want to go slapping text on things, go write a damn book already. I have met several of these. The Detroit area seems home to a lot of them.
Probably there's four, because some people, given the option, will write in Spanish or Latin or Esperanto or binary, just so you don't know. This is a respectable option. Possibly it's the most respectable option, because then nobody knows if what you're saying is cloying or not.
I don't know. Probably it's not the artists' fault. Doing this, you alternate between the craft store and the hardware store, and I've noticed that practically everything with text suitable for grafting that you can find at a craft store is all scrapbooking stuff with dozens of inspiring words on it, like a magnet poetry kit designed by Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, before the horrible thresher accident that turned her into the tormented bell-ringing hunchback of -- wait, no, that didn't really happen. (God, wouldn't that be cool, though?) So you're pretty much stuck with "love" and "hope" and "faith" and nobody's bothered to put out pre-cut text with the seven deadly sins and "die in a fire." (Enterprising readers take note! There is clearly a niche here!)
Anyway, the assemblage is cool. I'm spending way too much money on parts, but there all these neat problems that I don't yet know the solutions to, so it's a lot of fun. I seem to be building shrines to fish at the moment. Go figure.
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