Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Found Object Art: Assemblages and 3-d Collage


These are some sculptures I made out of found objects.  A found object assemblage is made of various objects that are placed together to create a visual composition.   My first attempt at making sculptures like this happened when I was about 14 years old.  I had been to a gallery gift shop at the Maryhill Museum in Goldendale, WA and seen figurative sculptures constructed of nuts and bolts and wanted to make something similar.  My grandfather's garage in Pasco, had boxes and crates containing random nuts, bolts, and screws of every type.  Unfortunately I figured out that elmers and super glue wasn't up to the task. Nevertheless I collected numerous found objects for my own amusement which later became the foundation for dozens of sculptures.  Part of the process involves looking for interesting objects to use in compositions.  Streets and alleyways in industrial areas provide an excellent resource in the city.  Rivers, creeks, and beaches of all sort can provide a wealth of materials.  Abandoned and demolished buildings, empty lots also can reveals useful treasures.  Though some of these places may project an element of danger I have yet to be harmed or discouraged.





Seed Pod, Found Objects: Steel and sandstone on found wood pedestal. 1995

The Seed Pod is actually an old bucket that was used for containing railroad spikes.  When I found it, it was stuck in the sand beside some railroad tracks on the outskirts of Denton, TX .  The bucket  was also filled with sand and several small sandstone rocks were shattered inside.  Nearby were the remnants of other  buckets that were crumpled, torn, and shattered.  After studying the buckets I determined that they had been filled with sand and rocks and placed on the tracks by someone.  A train had obviously come along at a high rate of speed and pulverized the buckets.  This one remained somewhat intact and also happened to become a rounded object resembling a seed pod of sorts.  I've been dragging this thing around with me ever since.  A strange sort of forces and tools were made to create this piece of art




Untitled, Found objects earthenware brick, steel, copper, glazed earthenware

The objects here are assembled to make a totem of sort that could also loosely resemble a woman's breast.  It is made from worn brick, found in a creek, a rusted sey of ball bearings, and an old ceramic marble, found near a demolished house.



Funometer found objects 1998, when I made this piece I was struggling with bouts of depression.  The ring at the top was made of terra cotta and fired in a kiln I made out of found bricks, the turquoise disc is plastic and came from my job at the Alaska Airlines warehouse. The metal pieces were found in an abandoned lot.



This was one of the very first pieces I made right after I moved to Washington from Texas.   I stayed in Tacoma for my first  six months, living with my mother.  I used to frequent the old Tacoma waterfront in Old Town searching for bricks and other artifacts from the abandoned mills, which there were many. This is made of found objects: terra cotta, obsidian slag, rusted steel, iron, copper , nickel, cardboard, wood.  This sculpture used slag from the Asarco Mill in Ruston, WA.  Asarco was known for leaving behind a superfund cleanup site that polluted Commencement Bay and parts of Vashon Island with arsenic.  I'm not sure if the black slag is toxic, but it is glasslike, almost like obsidian.  I also used terra cotta in this piece and a  quarter dollar coin that somehow got trapped and re-milled in a dryer.  


Untitled, Wood, sandstone, limestone 1995.  This sculpture was made when I still lived in Texas.  I used limestone found in a creek, creosote coated wood found near train tracks, and a sandstone "eye" from Lake Ray Roberts

Untitled Found objects,  2003 Metal road debris, brass cutting, driftwood, plastic case

This "bird-head" object is really just a piece of driftwood, found in the Puget Sound.

Sunspot Found objects, 1996  metal, felt, rubber, and an old token
I used to spend a lot of time wandering near train tracks.  It was always a good way to find stuff and it reminded me of my dad, grandfather, and uncles.  Tressles where often the only way to cross creeks despite their obvious danger.  One time while crossing we almost watched a friend of mine get run over by a train.  While crossing a bridge in cowboy boots and not wearing his contact lenses, my friend was unable to rapidly put his feet forward to get off the bridge.  Hobbled by these factors the train bore down upon him and he narrowly escaped death by wrapping his entire body around a tressel girder.  He didn't even make it off the bridge.  The train which had been cruising at a speed of about fifty miles an hour barely was able to slow down, and blared it's horn all the while as it zoomed past. My friend, terrified was only able to peel himself off the girder after the train had passed.




In North Texas all the farms and ranches are becoming parking lots, warehouses, and shopping malls.  Often while driving around in the countryside you'd see land offered for development with usually an old barn or farm house still standing.  Sometimes, I used to enter these sites looking for objects.  Horse shoes, boot heels, and rusty metal was common.

Horsey detail , found objects 1996




Flower,  1997 found metal, wood,  canvas, mud, burlap. Found frame.  Acrylic paint, and epoxy



Untitled, Limestone, glass marbles, wasp nest 1994


Ghost Town Found Objects 1991
When you are an artist sometimes it is easy to incorporate things that are nearby and familiar.  When I was in college at the University of North Texas I had a job at an art and crafts store similar to Michaels. I used to take home the mat board scraps and old frames from the framing department to mount my objects.
Trans Am, Found Objects , Mat Board frame, 1995 


One of the best ways to search for found objects these days is to ride a bicycle around town.  Bicycles give you a closer glimpse of the world by enabling the rider to traverse alleyways, lots, trails, roads, and sidewalks with ease.  Often while riding I 'll see something on the ground that I have to circle back for because I was unable to catch it upon first approach.  Also the objects found are also road worn,  similar to the affects that one would get from something tossed about in a fast moving river.   

Sun,  Found Objects 2008  Plastic, wood, metal

Ocean View, found wood assemblage.  2014  
Bird,  1998 found copper and ceramic, wood fired terra cotta , thrift store frame
Most recently, I have using them to make things that are also assembled from new materials.  At Pratt Fine Arts Center, I welded together this obelisk from new steel.  Then I welded some found objects to add texture to the piece.  

Saturday, May 2, 2015

New wooden owls

Here are my latest hand carved wooden owls.   I made them from reclaimed wood using various carving tools and painted them with acrylics. They are finished in a thin coat of wood wax (not shown) Tomorrow I will take these up to Edison, WA.


My latest wood carved owls. 
This owl had a sideways view
This is the largest of the bunch. 
This one has eyes like a barn owl. The design of the owl is inspired by European, Northwest Native American,  and Oaxaca design motifs. 
These wooden owls look afraid of the sander....


I paint acrylic in light washes so that it stains the surface of the wood, then I go back over them in thicker paint to add details.


Here are the owls while being carved.  I draw what I want to do in charcoal.  I use hatchets and chisels to shape the pieces.  Recently I switched t a rubber mallet, because the wooden one tears up the handles of the chisels.  I'm self taught at woodcarving so sometimes I learn through trial and error.  
Owl in progress with flannel and clog selfie.  Some of the chisels once belonged to my great grandfather Frank Swanberg SR., a Tacoma carpenter.





Pieces of wood ready for carving into whittle owls
Various pieces of wood that I have collected for carving.  The ones on the left are "whittle" owls
Here I have placed them outside , before applying the beeswax wood oil coating.  It will darken the surface of the wood and protect it from splitting.  The smaller carved owl on the left is decorated using a torch burning process.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Paintings October to December 2014

These paintings were made from October to December 2014, as an evening exercise.   I painted with watercolor, ink, and gouache on different paper surfaces.  Many of the paintings are based on photos taken by the artist at various locations.  Others are entirely made up.  

Duwamish Channel, watercolor on paper 4 x 6"  


Snake River Mill, watercolor on paper 4 x 6 "
Snake River Mill, watercolor and ink

1st Ave Bridge , ink on paper


Sodo vision, ink on paper
Hillside, sumi ink on paper

Salvage Yard, watercolor and ink on paper
Megler Bridge, Astoria, Oregon.  Watercolor on paper.  This was my 1st attempt. The paintings was based on a photo taken by Kate in our car in the dark and rain.



Megler Bridge, watercolor and ink on paper.  This was my second attempt at the painting.  The buildings in the foreground seem to have more light and energy than the first.  Though I am not as fond of the bridge.  The lower left diagonal line was from the window frame in our car.

Steam Plant, watercolor and ink on paper.



The Abandoned Shop was a derelict building that I discovered in East Pasco, WA.  I painted it from a few different angles in preparation for a version in acrylic.


Abandoned Shop, watercolor on paper

Abandoned Shop, watercolor and ink in progress


Abandoned Shop, same painting as above a little further along.




Abandoned Shop Left Side


One more version

Here the scrapyard is painted as a mirrored image, a forward and reverse on opposite pages.  I like painting an image multiple times to capture different aspects of a scene.  


Oso watercolor on paper . postcard sized.  This painting was made from a photo I took of the Oso mudslide.  The mudslide tore away the entire side of a mountain engulfing the small community of Oso.  Many of the residents were trapped in their houses and buried alive.
Duwamish River, watercolor on paper 8 3/4" x 15"  This is another version of the Duwamish painting near the West Seattle Bridge.  As I worked larger, i tried to paint looser.  The larger brush strokes leave more to the imagination.


Ash Grove Cement Plant, ink and watercolor on silk tissue.   Also featured: palette and brush



Where is Thrasher's Corner?  Near Everett, I guess.  I don't usually borrow pictures from the internet, but in this case I couldn't help myself.  This was made with a sumi ink brush pen.


Shady Acres Sumi ink brush on paper. This place exists only in my mind.