Places of the Heart/ArtAltered art is an umbrella term referring to the transformation of
ordinary, everyday objects into artistic pieces.
Assemblage is the art of constructing a cohesive, sculptural piece from a variety of materials (especially found objects). Diane Maurer-Mathison refers to it as "three-dimensional collage." As a form of freestyle sculpture, it might also be labeled Reconstruction. The parts, most of which are not intended as art materials, are predominantly brought together rather than
painted, drawn, modeled, or carved.
You dismantle things and recombine the pieces in new ways. Thusly you are remaking the meanings of the objects used. It's a way to give new purpose and a second life to castoffs.
|Top of my shrine to Ganesh, a Hindu god.|
Here's my tutorial, below, on how to create an altered art assemblage,
be it an altar or shrine or spirit house.
(Spirit houses are shrines to the protective spirit of a place. Shrines are receptacles for revered artifacts both sacred and secular. They make a visual statement filled with meaning. They can have to do with family, nature, personal growth, healing, protection--their significance is chosen by the creators of the shrines. Shrines can be commemorative, inspirational, meditative, or empowering in some other life-enhancing way, and each one can be made aesthetically appealing.
Like shrines, home altars are places of contemplation and personal devotion. The construction of personal altars is an ancient art--for some, they are holy places, sacred spaces. They have served the spiritual for thousands of years, providing a hub for linking up with one's inner self.)
|Close-up of the bottom portion of Ganesh, by P. Guhin|
1. Will the shrine or altar be miniature temple of sorts, a personal space for reflection, a reminder of what you're thankful for, a celebration of an event, perhaps? Or is it to be a memorial to honor someone or something? Your objective might be simply to creatively and freely express yourself.
Tip: The finished piece need not strictly adhere to your original plan.
2. There's no single, "right" way to begin such an assemblage, but you could start with a sturdy vessel or a strong framework. Choose a shadowbox, base, deep picture frame, or other receptacle for its good craftsmanship and stability. Bear in mind its size, form, and structure as they relate to your needs. A junked medicine cabinet, desk drawer, wooden box, or old clock case could house the key elements. Other ideas for a reliquary are a vintage train case, a metal cash box, or the shell of an old bathroom scale. Of course this foundation will be transformed as you work, but it is the core of your piece3. Collect materials and play with their potential. Bring together memorabilia, talismans, and other symbolic objects, including charms and trinkets. Do you have any fetish objects? (A fetish is an inanimate object loved for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit. It is believed to protect or aid its owner.)
Similarly, a totem is also a venerated symbol; a plant, natural object or animal believed by a person or a society to have spiritual significance.
Mindfully gather such meaningful objects as special stones or feathers, seashells, bones, horns, crystals, a figurine. Also assemble pictures, papers, decorative elements, and more. Consider their colors and textures--rich textures, visual or actual, add appeal to an artwork. Soon an idea will gel or a theme will come to mind and you can move forward.
|Ganesh. 15" tall, 6" wide, 3.5" deep|
4. Cover the work area first. One way to begin is to paint, collage, or embellish the vessel as you wish, before inserting and adhering major parts. (Another method is to assemble the entire piece first, and then paint it, or dispense with the paint altogether!) Be prepared to change your mind as you audition the various components.
Decide whether the assemblage will be grounded or suspended from a wall or both. Add feet if desired, using thread spools, wooden blocks, flat pebbles, or furniture legs. Consider attaching a hanging system. Decorate any unfinished areas (top, sides, back) as desired, making adjustments throughout the process.
More altars and spirit houses:
See Freedom Flight, with real bird wings, at this link: Shrine,
and a shrine to my mom at Memorial to Ida