What is Assemblage?

While I see myself making new pieces of art furniture and lamps (see Commissions and Lamps, Etc.), and making all-clay wall vases and lighting sconces is too much fun to ignore, my main interest is in assemblage work. And what is assemblage? Here’s the American Heritage Dictionary (4th ed.) definition:

Assemblage, n.

  1. The act of assembling.

  2. The state of being assembled.

  3. A collection of people or things; a gathering.

  4. A collection of items from a single datable component of an archaeological site.

  5. A fitting together of parts, as those in a machine.

  6. A sculptural composition consisting of an arrangement of miscellaneous objects or found materials.

Perhaps the best known practitioner of the assemblage form was Joseph Cornell (1903-1972). For me, it was love at first sight, when I happened upon Cornell’s work while grazing the stacks at the university library.

I think of my assemblages as “image poems,” where, just as happens in poetry, images are presented in a way that will allow them to be experienced swiftly by the viewers. “There is always a phantasmagoria,” said Yeats; and the word suggests the rapidity of a shared dream experience.

By bringing a utilitarian function to my work—however formal or improbable—I hope to further elicit the participation of the viewer. Many of my pieces use lighting elements for just such purpose. Another strategy is to make the objects’ arrangement more artificial through the finish and workmanship of an applied furniture-making process. Indeed, many of these pieces are in their own ways furniture. In fact, the impulse toward recycling and re-use is an important one in my work, even if the nod to worldly stewardship is absurd in its form. Craft too plays a central role in the work, as I strive to mix the flotsam of our lives with artisan techniques that are a reaction to the commoditization of our age.

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