Thursday, August 5, 2010

Assemblage Fever




Assemblage boxes are multiplying on my work table during these Dog Days of summer. Last year I was sewing up a storm during August. It's good to have plenty of inside activities planned when the thermometer shoots past the mid-90s. I've made assemblage boxes before, including a portable Elvis shrine for a friend, but it's been awhile. That means my supply of oddball materials has been building, and it was time to get into action. That and the added nudge of homework assigned in the Mixed Media course I'm taking at the Art League gave me plenty of impetus.

Wikipedia defines assemblage as an artistic process in which a three dimensional artistic composition is made from putting together found objects. Joseph Cornell was a master of assemblage, and here in Houston we have access to a lot of his work at the Menil Collection. Years ago I devoured a wonderful biography of Cornell called Utopia Parkway: the Art and Life of Joseph Cornell (FSG, 1997) by Deborah Solomon, which I can't recommend enough. But I don't want look at too much of Cornell's work right now because I'd rather play with what I have, uninfluenced by anyone else's masterpieces.

I'm using cigar boxes, boxtops, frames, all kinds of substrata, and though I tried to get away from the "dollcentric" theme I've developed in my collage practice, I quickly realized there was no getting away from that particular obsession. See two works above that I completed last week, both of them including small doll elements. There are always problems to solve in such multimedia works. Will the glue hold? Will the glue show? In what order should things get glued down? Will I be able to touch up the paint without messing up other surfaces? Will there be enough three dimensionality? and so on and so forth. There is lots of experimentation and running around for "just one more thing", as well as some frustration when things don't quite work out right. There are both "oh-ohs" and "ahas", so life is never dull when I'm caught up in assemblage fever. I like to work on more than one box at a time so that while one is clamped, fresh-glued or fresh-painted, I can turn my attention to the whatever next stage is required.

I should be doing other things - there are three rooms to paint here at the house, and many other siren calls. But I'm having too much fun to stop. As long as the AC holds and we don't run into any hurricanes, I'm all set. Roll over, Beethoven - the Dog Days are here.....
Photos: assemblage boxes by KAO, 2010

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