As a student of art at Kent State University in the early 90’s, I had a very hard time finding my niche. To the delight of my mother, I was accepted into the Roger Silverman School of Fashion Design. However, having neither the money to buy fashionable clothing nor the inkling to sew, I moved onto the Fine Art Department. I dabbled in Graphic Design and Painting. I joined a rural guild for Spinners and Weavers. I took classes in Art History and became fascinated with religious and indigenous art. Finally, I changed my major to Cultural Anthropology and kept my art as personal therapy rather than trying to make a career out of it!
I was creating very large paintings that incorporated natural fiber, sand, and drift wood. I was also making collages blending ink illustration, found objects, and magazine clippings. At some point, a customer labeled me ‘mixed media’. My work was becoming increasingly three dimensional, which seems to be the difference between collage and assemblage. Below are examples of my collage work which moved into altered book art.
For side money, I began painting fantasy and futuristic gaming figures and building terrain pieces in 28mm. This pushed my ability to see creative uses for everyday objects and also expanded my knowledge of clays, glues, faux materials, and texturing. When I rediscovered my childhood dollhouse in 2004 and began working in 1:12 scale, I had a euphoric ‘Ah-ha!’ moment. This is IT! However, I was all by myself in the hobby for nearly four years and so applying what I gleaned from the occasional miniature magazine with my previous artistic experience. My background in the fantasy gaming world is probably why my work looks a bit different from much of the cleanly crafted scale dollhouse miniatures.
I love Demeng and Kuski!
Although they are not miniaturists, there are two outstanding assemblage artists that have greatly inspired me, Michael Demeng and Kris Kuksi. Demeng’s book ‘The Secret of Rusty Things’ was like a long awaited secret tome detailing the magical transformation of trash into elemental art. His work is crusty, aged, earthy, and filled with countless bits of pseudo-sacred folk imagery and the modern world’s cast off ephemera. I especially love the stories of how he finds his materials.
In contrast, Kris Kuski’s work is glorious, ephemeral, a bit creepy, and often appears to float. Thousands of spires, figures, and gothic motifs are painted in pale colors, mimicking the remnants of classical marble figures. He creates fantastical assemblage temples, vehicles, and whole cities. He also will surround a large archetypal being with countless smaller writhing figures. You could look a hundred times at his work and always find new details that were previously unnoticed.
Why do I love assemblage style? To begin with, it is cost effective and promotes recycling of broken items and ‘junk’. Then the artist is faced with the challenging puzzle to put all the bits together into one single cohesive piece. Finally, the great joy of an assemblage artist is the ‘Hunt’. I am always on the lookout for a treasure, a rare and interesting bit to use. It is a style that suits an intrepid collector’s mentality. Needless to say, such an artist must have an organized system of storing all their stash. I can keep this a bit under control because I work in miniature… I only have one room and two closets full.
As an AIM member in the Fantasy, Myth, & Magic category, my offerings range from Gothic inspired spooky to Elvish fantasy themes. I’m constantly on the lookout for interesting twigs, wire scraps, vintage watches and cameras, unwanted action figures and broken toys, costume jewelry, and holiday decorations. I’m frequently seen at thrift shops and dollar stores. My family must restrain me at the sight of a yard sale. Here are a few of my favorite miniatures made in assemblage style.
A Brief History of Assemblage Art:
The origin of the word (in its artistic sense) can be traced back to the early 1950s, when Jean Dubuffet created a series of collages of butterfly wings, which he titled assemblages d'empreintes. However, both Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso had been working with found objects for many years prior to Dubuffet. They were not alone, alongside Duchamp the earliest woman artist to try her hand at assemblage was Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, the Dada Baroness, and one of the most prolific, as well as producing some of the most exciting early examples, was Louise Nevelson, who began creating her sculptures from found pieces of wood in the late 1930s.
In 1961, the exhibition "The Art of Assemblage" was featured at the New York Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition showcased the work of early twentieth century European artists such as Braque, Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Picasso, and Kurt Schwitters alongside Americans Man Ray, Joseph Cornell and Robert Rauschenberg, and also included less well known American West Coast assemblage artists such as Wallace Berman, Bruce Conner and Edward Kienholz. William C Seitz, the curator of the exhibition, described assemblages as being made up of preformed natural or manufactured materials, objects, or fragments not intended as art materials.