Finding Art

What is art? I once read a statement by a psychiatrist in which he said: “The more useless it is, the more it is apt to be art.” The more I thought about that statement, the more surprised I became. So I turned it into a workshop assignment: Bring back something that?s useless; will it be art? They brought back old wires, things that had been mashed beyond recognition and road signs that had been punctured with bullet holes. We all reviewed our vision with stimulated dialogue.

A friend of mine took this exercise a step further. He had been away for a few days, and when he returned home his newspaper had been soaked with rain and weathered beyond recognition. He couldn?t read it, so he made a painting around it. I do things like this from time to time to challenge my inventiveness, as you can see in Texas (above, right; assemblage, 10×10-1/2) and Untitled (at left; decollage, 10×8). My other work isn?t the same as this at all.

In three boxes I have bits of things that I?ve picked up from gutters or parking lots, and every now and then I become motivated to grab a handful of pieces of paper and whatnot from the boxes and play. I glue the pieces down to a firm surface such as cardboard or a panel with white glue diluted with water. Sometimes I press down with weights to make sure they adhere properly.

This process hearkens back to art movement of the 1960s: “decollage” meaning “de-paste,” and “arte povera” meaning “poor art.” Decollage images were torn down posters reassembled into objects of art. The Italian “arte povera” was often an assemblage of sticks, mud, papers and other everyday debris.

It?s certainly an impulsive process, and it does wonders for my imagination, as well as vision.

A signature member of the National Watercolor Society, Watercolor West and the Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Society, Catherine Anderson lives in Glen Ellen, California. Visit her Web site at

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