I have recently been studying the subject of fear in artists. And I am struck by the idea that assemblage artists have side-stepped one particularly fearful area voiced by other artists: Fear that your audience will miss your meaning or message in a piece.
As an assemblage artist I don’t deal with that one. Our work is interpreted by the viewer, and unless I set out to drive a message home, I don’t give it a second thought.
Our works are made from parts repurposed. Most often we didn’t “create” those parts from raw materials. They were already made. And because we didn’t create them, they already had a purpose or meaning attached to them. And because they already had meaning in another life often our viewers have their own meaning and memory attached to those objects.
Trying to force our past on the viewer doesn’t work, people like to point out what objects they recognize in a piece, or they might ask what a certain object is. From that they often make a comment like, “My dad had one of those!” From there they might tell us about that person or circumstance. It’s more like we are dredging memories from our viewers, and we can’t control their memories.
As we are working on a piece I think most of us have a narrative going on about the piece in front of us. My guess is that our brains need to make sense of the chaos of objects we are working with.
But I can’t remember a viewer asking what the art work is about or what we were trying to say, they like to tell us about their feelings and experiences.
Sorry bout that expressionist painters!