THE ART OF ASSEMBLAGE
MYTH, MYSTERY, AND SPIRITUALITY
January 23 - March 8, 2023
About the Exhibition
The Art of Assemblage: Myth, Mystery and Spirituality centers upon the artistic practice of assemblage - artworks made of found objects - and questions of spirituality. It includes the work of four contemporary Maine artists: Abbie Read, David Matson, Sally Wagley, and Robert Katz. The artists employ diverse approaches to assemblage, and represent different spiritual traditions. The exhibition was organized by artist and UMA Professor of Art Robert Katz, and is on view from January 23 - March 8.
The Art of Assemblage: Myth, Mystery and Spirituality includes artists whose use of assemblages turn the bricolage of found and re-contextualized objects toward spiritual considerations. The exhibition is supported by an original essay by Dr. Aaron Rosen, Professor of Religion & Visual Culture and Director of the Henry Luce III Center for the Arts & Religion at Wesley Theological Seminary and Director of The Parsonage Gallery in Searsport, Maine. In his essay, Dr. Rosen wrote, “The artists come from a range of religious traditions, from Katz’s Jewish upbringing in Brooklyn and continued study of Jewish sacred texts to David Matson’s vocation as an Episcopal parish priest. Despite such different spiritual journeys, the artists bring a similarly non-dogmatic, playful spirit to their works, sparking numerous interreligious parallels and dialogues along the way.”
In organizing The Art of Assemblage: Myth, Mystery and Spirituality, Professor Katz explained the impetus for the show: “I received a fellowship and was working with found objects that had been accumulating in my studio. As I began working in assemblage, I was interested in discussions I was having with people working and using similar materials as me.” Katz conceived of The Art of Assemblage as a public continuation of those conversations among artists. The exhibitions even include approximations of artists’ assemblage studios, bringing viewers into the creative process that reimagines miscellaneous things to create a new synthesis of objects, concepts, and even spiritual connection. Exhibiting artist David Matson explains, “When I became a priest, my prayer was that I may also be an artist. At the time, priest and artist seemed to stand at opposing poles. I have since come to believe that priest and artist fundamentally do the same thing: in either case, one stands on a threshold between the Worlds.”
The Art of Assemblage: Myth, Mystery and Spirituality
Maine is a good place to gather things. The seasons here are marked by this act, from stacking wood to collecting seashells to picking blueberries. But Maine is also renowned for its antique stores, auctions, yard sales, and transfer stations, replete with “trash and treasures” to take the name of one roadside shop. And while out-of-staters might be willing to pay top dollar, Mainers seem to value the act of rummaging itself, regardless of the outcome.
While the most celebrated assemblage artists—such as Kurt Schwitters, Man Ray, Joseph Cornell, Louise Nevelson, and Leonardo Drew—have hailed from all over, there is a case to be made for a special Maine tradition of assemblage, with its own homespun take on this art form. Among its many virtues, this exhibition makes that argument brilliantly, bringing together—dare I say, assembling—four noted Maine artists, each with an eye for mysterious objects and ideas, hidden in plain sight.
The artists come from a range of religious traditions, from Katz’s Jewish upbringing in Brooklyn and continued study of Jewish sacred texts to David Matson’s vocation as an Episcopal parish priest. Despite such different spiritual journeys, the artists bring a similarly non-dogmatic, playful spirit to their works, sparking numerous interreligious parallels and dialogues along the way. Whether tackling the prejudices of the canon, as Sally Wagley does, or delving into the overlapping acts of map and mythmaking, as Abbie Read does, the works in this exhibition invite responses as personal as the objects they bind together. To adapt the words of the great theorist and collector Walter Benjamin, one could say that for each of these artists, “the whole background of an item adds up to a magic encyclopedia whose quintessence is the fate of [their] object…turn[ing them] into interpreters of fate.”
Aaron Rosen, PhD
Author, Art & Religion in the 21st Century
Director, The Parsonage Gallery, Searsport