Poetics of the Found

By Deborah Winiarski

In 1961, William C. Seitz, then Associate Curator of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, curated the exhibition and wrote the accompanying book, The Art of Assemblage, which recognized for the first time that “. . . collages, ‘readymades,’ ‘found objects,’ ‘surrealist objects,’ ‘combine-paintings,’ and other varieties of assemblage are diverse manifestations of a common tradition which is unique to the 20th century.”

Assemblage, in art, is work that incorporates found objects, fragments, and everyday materials – elements not originally intended as art materials – into a composition.  The ready-made elements may be identifiable within a work or transformed to some degree but, within the context of an entire composition, take on a new aesthetic or symbolic meaning.  Assemblage works may be considered collages with aspects of volume.  The artists below continue this ‘new’ tradition into the 21st century, creating works in encaustic that incorporate common materials in uncommon ways each giving expression to their unique and poetic vision.

Catherine Nash

Nash_Catherine_Traversing Stars_4_72ppi

Catherine Nash, Traversing Stars, 2013; encaustic, raku fired clay, handmade paper and found objects in an antique drawer; 15 x 15 x 2.5 inches

“I resonate with the Japanese aesthetics of wabi and sabi . . . concepts of solitude, simplicity, longing and the passage of time. In my poetic assemblages, I juxtapose antique, vintage and found objects with color and drawing to explore deep experiences of nature and the metaphysics of place and memory.”

Graceann Warn


Graceann Warn, Litany Box, 2015; found papers, wax and objects in vintage box; 8 x 22 x 2 inches

“I use foundry patterns, old drawers and antique boxes to house little worlds whose themes include the mystery of the cosmos, travel, magic and chance. I enjoy collecting the objects as much as the challenge of saying ‘just enough’ in order to leave the rest to the imagination.”

Nancy Azara


Nancy Azara, Third Moon, 2011; carved and painted wood with aluminum leaf and encaustic;
84 x 84 x 12 inches. Photography: Christopher Burke

“The tree is the inspiration for my work. The lumber and logs have rough and elegant elements. The wood is carved and then “dressed” with color using paint, encaustic and gilding. Encaustic gives the work a semi-opaque, jewel-like glow. These combined elements record a journey of memory, images and ideas.”

Jeffrey Hirst

Pearl.1.MOO (1)

Jeffrey Hirst, Pearl, 2014; wood, encaustic, gesso, screenprint, epoxy; 17 x 16 x 16 inches. Photography: Don Felton, Almac Camera

“For years, I have been interested in building images in layers. I started making relief constructions in late 2012 and have cycled back and forth between painting and sculpture since then.  My current work combines sculpture and painting with an emphasis on the role as a builder.”

Lisa Zukowski


Lisa Zukowski, Dark Horse (Bundle Series), 2015; encaustic, tar, burlap, coffee bag, encaustic monotype on cloth, embroidery, old clothes, string; 14 x 8 x 6 inches

“Works in the Bundle Series are vessels, reliquaries of a sort, that symbolically, and sometimes literally, hold and protect that which I find precious. Encased in a protective shell of encaustic and wrapped in string are bits of old clothes, scraps of encaustic monotypes, coffee bags, textiles and shredded ephemera.”

Miles Conrad


Miles Conrad, Finding More Time In Your Life, 2015, reclaimed book, sweater, wax, 9 x 6 x 4 inches

“In the series, Self Help, I use discarded books from psychology programs, get-rich-quick guides and business management paradigms to serve as platforms for disembodied phallic forms made from wax, hair, clothing, debris, soap, etc. My intention is to complicate given notions of masculine gender identity, sexual normativity and cultural power.”

Sherrie Posternak


Sherrie Posternak , El Triunfo de la Vida (The Triumph of Life), 2013; encaustic, dress, obituary column, fabric flower petals, cord, vintage beads, lace, joss paper, pigment stick on absorbent fiber; 36 x 24 inches. Photography: Robin Stancliff

“The dress represents youth and vitality, which always emerges, set against the inevitability of death in the cycle of life and death.”

Lisa Barthelson


Lisa Barthelson, illuminations 4, family debris: organic matter, 2012; mixed media: assemblage with monoprint, organic found objects and encaustic on cradled panel; 36 x 36 x 7 inches

“The mixed media assemblage from the illuminations series, uses an original family debris monoprint as the base for an encaustic and organic family debris composition comprising, egg shells, grape stems, pistachio nut shells, and coffee grounds. The assemblage shines the light on our family’s life, consumption and what remains.”

Nancy Youdelman


Nancy Youdelman, Butterfly Queen, 2015, mixed media with encaustic, 18 x 8 x 8.5 inches. Photography: Michael Karibian

“The Bound Doll series is a response to the bittersweet experience of finding secondhand rag dolls and cast-off costume jewelry. At one time, these things were most likely precious to someone but have become tarnished and broken with time.”

Cecile Chong


Cecile Chong, Make a Wish, 2015, encaustic and mixed media on wooden paddle, 15 x 9 inches

“I create cross-cultural narratives by juxtaposing appropriated images from vintage children’s books and other found images within layers of encaustic. Pigments from Morocco and India, volcanic ash from Ecuador, rice paper, metallic leaf, beads and circuit board components become cultural signifiers, metaphorically representing layering of cultures, identity and places.”

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