Every once in a while a friend will give me an object saying “I thought you could use this in your work.” Of course I am grateful for the gift. I am flattered by the thoughtfulness and validated that my friends acknowledge and support my work as an artist. That being said, I am usually completely baffled by the gift-object and my friend’s intention for it. What do they mean “use it in my work?” How? What, I wonder, are they thinking I should do with this thing? What is the image in their minds eye that links this object to me and my work? I will never know. It doesn’t matter, though, I am flattered and challenged and I accept.
Anyway, I love a challenge. The challenge is to take this foreign thing and somehow make it speak in my language. I use the gift-object as a word, expanding my vocabulary while still keeping the same tone and voice. The work must be meaningful, and the finished piece has to communicate something other than the gift-object’s original meaning. Finally, the artwork must communicate a point of view that is cohesive to the central conceptual issues of my ongoing practice.
But making meaning with stuff that already means something requires special skill. Gift-objects, especially vintage ones, must be transmuted very carefully. Found objects carry an aura of history and nostalgia. When used in assemblage, the gift-object could dominate the artwork with the power of its history.
This is the challenge and the fun of assemblage.