In its own existence

It would be extremely difficult to tell exactly how many practicing artists in the assemblage arts medium in the U.S. maybe 5,000.

If we take this arbitrary number and multiply it by a minimum of five works we begin to see the magnitude of the production of art assemblage each year. When this is multiplied over a period of five years the production becomes staggering and then we must focus on the problem of quantity-quality. The variations and diversity of expression found within this number of works is equally enormous, as each is a separate entity unto itself. Most of these assemblage art works will be insignificant and inferior works but many will be valid and exciting forms. The immediate problem is discerning the good from the bad, The collector of art is under constant bombardment and must ferret out what holds meaning for themselves.

voo doo                                          @Assemblage by Michael H. Wilson 2019

The goal toward which all our artistic endeavors make the connection. The task of art and the richness and poetry felt.

The task of the artist, the feeling of creating and finding the points of the compass to lead the artist to the way of things which radiate into your works. At first the artist must navigate through the array of finding things that will go into the final product. There is a wilderness of working through to finding the right components leading to a little star dust caught. Fragments of the detritus of everyday life. The identity of an object is challenged or elaborated in terms of interplay between reality and representation. Ultimately works can be reassembled, removed, a different order, shaken, tilted. The artist works to the artistic invention and imagination that the spectator might find meaning and even joy in these creations.collage 2                                               @ Collage by Susan Spencer 2019


What Assemblage Is

Just in case you were wondering…
I ran across this great definition of assemblage from instructor J. Minkoff’s class notes for his ECC Art 100 class. He succinctly points out that that an assemblage is a type of construction, but a construction is not necessarily an assemblage. Hope that answers some questions…try this definition out next time you visit contemporary works at a museum…
“A Construction is any sculpture where a variety of materials are joined together to make a 3D artwork. An example would be below (“Soft Toilet”, Claes Oldenburg, American, 1960’s), where vinyl, wood and other materials have been used to build the artwork.”


“An assemblage is a particular class of construction. As in a construction, the artist is joining together a variety of materials. However, the materials in an assemblage are, more specifically, FOUND OBJECTS. That is, objects that were made by someone other than the artist, usually for a non-art-related purpose. The artist finds ways to combine these found items, often emphasizing the way they do not seem to belong together, and were never meant to be used in the manner the artist has chosen. Below is a good example of an assemblage: “Monogram”, by Robert Rauschenberg, American, 1960’s.”



Note that Minkoff points out to us that the assemblage objects were never meant to be used in the manner the artist has chosen. Here is where great humor can be inserted…



FAQs at Our Gallery-How Do We Start?

After a very exciting 3-day open studio event, we would like to thank everyone who showed up offering friendship, support and purchases. Our biggest turnout ever!

I tried to listen to the questions we were asked while speaking about our studio work, and thought it would be fun to address them here in the blog. I already wrote about the number one question: “where do we get all this stuff?” in an earlier blog, An Avalanche of Stuff…

Another popular question is, “How do you start a piece?”  The short answer is “many ways…”, but here I will address three main ways we might start a work:

  • Lay In The Background. This is a favorite of mine for wall work. For the beginner, too, you can avoid the pitfalls of creating cliches like bleeding baby-dolls, and robot after robot. (okay, don’t get mad, just saying it’s been done…) When you lay in a background you are giving the piece a chance to speak up. Once laid in, the background often starts to set the mood, and from there, roughly dictates the theme. In the piece below, I wanted the feeling of an old library. The original paper was pretty bright, so I toned it waaaay down with washes. Then, it reminded me of my great uncle’s library, his profession and travels:


  • Use One Major Piece and Build A Story Around It. Here, you must stay cognizant of your focal point. Extra pieces will come and go until it feels right and it will be cohesive if you watched and listened to the art as you worked. I have a friend who keeps all the pieces of the same time historically.  His art stays cohesive and comfortable that way.  In the example below you can easily recognize the focal point, and I tried to give a ‘Punch and Judy” feel to the piece:

in the can

  • Find Two Pieces That Want To Work Together.  This is my favorite way to start a 3-D or sculptural piece. The two pieces are often nonsense together, but they need to be comfortable together and make some sort of weird sense. In the piece below, Michael has put together a camera that sits on an old tripod. Interestingly, none of the pieces in this work are from cameras!

Dada Clock

I hope readers can get insight to how we work here, and assemblage beginners can get ideas for getting started. Many of our works can be found on our website: or on the Etsy site and

Again, thanks to all our wonderful friends, old and new, for the successful open studio event last weekend!


An Avalanche Of Stuff

headAs I write this I can hear Michael in the background entering all of the ‘junk’ purchases we made last year into QuickBooks. Each entry is accompanied by a “que-beep” as it makes its way to the list of items that were purchased and added into our tax information for Mr. Dean, our tax man,  to work his tax magic.

All that stuff….which brings me to today’s comment. We are asked at every exhibition, “Where do you get all that stuff?” So I have broken it down into the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here’s the orthodox list:

Friends and family- My darling cousin sent us a bag of drawer pulls via her husband, (my real cousin) today, via his 4 hour drive over! Now, let me see….next time can I send back some homemade jam? oops let the cat out, Debbie…

Ebay and Etsy-This is Michael’s world. He is a closet shop-o-holic. He finds so many cool little items there. He prides himself on never paying more than $7. (I know this is not always true…) But I overhear him talking a seller into free shipping all the time! oops, family secrets are out, Michael….

Yard sales-These are a desert of plastic junk these days, but sometimes….a real sweet antique shows up….like the vintage chess men Michael bought that were handed over in the (huge) copper pot that they didn’t charge for… We sold the copper pot on Ebay for enough to buy much more junk!

2nd hand stores- Like yard sales, you have to be willing to sift through some funky plastic junk, but the books can be a find…and my pal who works at one got me the metal folk-art kitty in the piece I just finished below.

Antique stores- This is the fun finds when we are on vacation. Last year my sister gave me a carry-on suitcase from her closet so we could lug all the good stuff we found while on our visit (with the cousins.)

And now the unorthodox list, or the list of shame…

The dump-We are rural, real rural. Garbage doesn’t magically disappear from our driveway. We will be spotted checking out the “metal” pile every 6 weeks or so…please, just don’t call out, “Hey! What’s up you guys?” when we are trying to go incognito….

Michael’s garage finds-Michael paints houses for the basic money we survive on. His clients are constantly telling him to ‘take what he wants,’ they just want to be rid of the stuff in the garage. Our cool headboard at the top is from someone’s garage. It was an old stair railing…

Our driveway-okay, not so inspiring , huh? But a lot of rusty nuts, bolts, and washers can be found on our ranch. These little embellishments can come in handy…

Here’s the folk art cat piece called Mrs. Sayers Magic Cats (there’s a story behind that) and our really cool headboard is at the top of this post.

Mrs. Sayers


Iron Clad Artists


Louise Nevelson and 2 works

(image photos courtesy of yahoo images)

Picture this:

You see a call for artists at a local show. The show is titled, “Changing Things Up-Discarded Objects As Art.” It sounds pretty good…soon you are getting emails from art friends forwarding the show announcement. They cheer you on, encouraging you, “This one’s for you!” So you submit your 3 photos and pay your fees. The show is all abuzz amongst the assemblage artists. When the list of accepted artists come out, 200 artists have submitted! And 135 artists have been  chosen to show… are not one of them.

Assemblage artists are a misunderstood lot. (boo-hoo) You won’t find us along the country roads in large sun hats painting impressions of light on the vineyards. We will be the ones stopping to scrounge the rusty hub cap at the turnout. We tell our stories of humanity through broken parts, forgotten. ( I was once told I lost a sale because one of the items in my assemblage was a broken piece…)

We are the ones most likely to hear the wafting whispers, “…my 5-year-old could have done that…” as polite head shakings steer them toward the lovely florals.  (yeah, well bet you wouldn’t have pulled over to get that hub cap for her…)

On the other hand, there is the camaraderie  of misfits with us. We share bits of stuff and junky items inviting pals to take what they want from our larders. We can be mysterious and intellectual, rough and raucous. We are the ones working with the grit of life. We create composition, balance and sometimes beauty using these items. And we may have a story to tell in there…

To help with the lonely times I offer some suggestions:

  • Try learning about the history of assemblage art and its major players. (It’s a short story) And it will help with that intellectual thing…
  • Next time you are at a group opening try engaging a stranger in conversation about them. It could be more interesting that hearing Matilda wax poetic over the ducks she painted in her landscape. ( Sorry, Matilda)
  • Hone your skills. Learn to manipulate your background and foreground. Pat yourself on the back when you figure out that tricky connection that fools the eye…
  • Dress outrageously at the opening. At 65 years, 5’2″, and 140 lbs., I’m tired of trying to look sophisticated at openings. Rock those bell-bottoms and head scarf like the Louise Nevelson you were meant to be! (I’ll let you know later how that one goes…)






Hmmmm…Now What’s He Up To?

Looks like we have a lot of ongoing projects up in the studio lately.  Michael is back to the assemblages, myself as well. Here’s a couple on our tables in the ‘getting there’ stages.

Michael is working quickly these days, my piece on the right, however, has been a slow-goer. I need to change out that egg-beater.

I imagine both will be finished up next week and I can post the finished pieces.



We Are Not Normal (Artists)


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!

Art and The Power of Healing


Michael and I were cleaning up photo files on our devises today, (thank you Leslie Saeta’s blog at ) Amazing how good it feels to purge hundreds of redundant photos and free up space on the computers, not to mention pare it all down so we can actually find photos we want without wasting time searching and searching for them.

Anyway, I ran across a photo of a work I did last year when I had the flu.

I rarely get sick, but guess I was due. After a couple of days of misery, boredom set in and I crawled up to the studio, and became immersed in this piece. It wasn’t a particularly serious work, but it was great fun to work on. Just right for a recovery process.

I don’t remember feeling sick during the time I was working on it. I do remember having fun arranging the corny Buck Rogers-like images and the imagined sounds of the ray guns going off. I also remember being amazed how long I was concentrated on it (days) when I couldn’t keep my attention on TV or a movie.

I think this all speaks to the healing power of art. That meditative state we reach as artists where time stands still. I believe it was one of the reasons I got over that flu quickly when it seemed to hang on for weeks for others. Doing art is a healthy practice, I just wish our society could see that and encourage art for everyone along with physical activity. Body, Mind, and Spirit.

Happily, this piece found its way to a good friend’s house, he chose it from a wall full of pieces. I hope it brings health and happiness to their home.

New Exhibition of Assemblages

Michael and Susan are going to be exhibiting an extensive collection of their assemblages, both new and older works through the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, California. Opening reception will be at the museum January 30th, 4:30-7:00pm. The show will run through April 17th. If in the neighborhood, and interested in checking out some intriguing works by several assemblage artists, do stop by! We will be announcing dates for our artist’s talks concerning our works, and historical interests of assemblage in general.