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  • Found art: discovering the beauty in discarded objects

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    • finding your own art
      If you're ready to wander the woods and tear through the trash in search of art, keep a few things in mind. Think about the space you hope to fill — the size of the area, color scheme and ove...
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      finding your own art
      If you're ready to wander the woods and tear through the trash in search of art, keep a few things in mind. Think about the space you hope to fill — the size of the area, color scheme and overall design.

      Then, when you're on your treasure hunt, let your eyes and hands lead you to items that might fit. These may include "acorns, seed pods, dried grasses, logs, tree bark, tree limbs, rusted metal or iron, old or broken crockery, stones, broken concrete, glass windows and more," says Jacksonville designer Cheryl Von Tress.

      Bring home your booty, clean it up as much as desired, then start to brainstorm a finished product and how to manifest it. If the search proves more profitable than the completion phase, consider creating a custom piece of found art with the help of a professional artist.

      Cantrell Maryott Driver, whose work is on display at Ashland Art Works, teaches a three-week class at Rogue Gallery in February called The Nuts and Bolts of Assemblage. It helps people "turn objects of personal significance into pieces of art."

      To create longevity and the desired aesthetic, she provides guidance and everything from epoxies to power tools and clamps.

      What meaning comes from such an undertaking? "The joy of creativity and unleashing that childlike adventure," says Von Tress. And never underestimate "the sense of individual expression and nonconformity" that comes from thinking outside the frame.
  • It's been 90 years since found art (also called found object, objet trouvé or readymade) was controversially accepted into the broader world of fine art. Marcel Duchamp's 1917 "The Fountain—" a urinal he repurposed into a slightly more, um, decorative object —was the first universally acknowledged example of this new-fangled genre that created art from modified, but undisguised common objects.
    "By definition, found art is self-defined — it is found or discovered rather than purchased, and its beauty is in the eye of its beholder," explains Cheryl Von Tress of Cheryl Von Tress Designs in Jacksonville. Von Tress has turned everything from a sheath of oak bark, to a tangle of kelp, to a rusted metal picnic table into significant pieces of home décor.
    "For me, its characteristics involve uniqueness of the object, resourcefulness of the discoverer and the hidden surprise lying beneath its surface," she says.
    Found art can be made of metal, wood, stone, ceramic, porcelain, glass, and natural fibers; it can be discovered in junk yards, forests, beaches, creek beds, fields, barns, old fences, grandparent's sheds and backyards.
    Visual artist Cantrell Maryott Driver of Ashland has been creating assemblages from found art since she was a youngster roaming her grandfather's ranch in Globe, Ariz., which had once been the town dump.
    "Our playground was acres and acres of colored glass, antique bottles, doorknobs, old metal," she remembers. "I created an appreciation for these items because they were treasures. I wouldn't just put them in a pile; I would arrange them."
    She now builds collage-type art from disparate items that appeal to her based on their texture, shape and color. An old piece of iron might meet a shiny, new trinket; a five-times-painted scrap of Alaskan boat wood might surround smooth rocks or even something man-made.
    It's this notion of uncovering the mysterious beauty and potential combinations of mundane objects that directs the creation of found art.
    "Different people use different pieces — letters, fabrics, metal welded into sculpture, pieces of wood that have different colors," Driver says. "It's such a broad genre and everyone has a different aesthetic — it's like any kind of decoration scheme: some people will want red velvet and a purple couch; some people will want all neutrals."
    The trick is to let your individual taste lead you to the unexpectedly artistic and then to have the courage to display your discovery or creation.
    To successfully work a piece of found art into a room's décor, the same basic rules apply as when placing any artwork: Balance, scale, line and harmony between the art and the space.
    Think about color scheme and the room's basic design style. And avoid turning anything perishable or in an active state of decomposition into found art.
    "This could stain a wall, floor or other surface," warns Von Tress. "Successful found art would already be in its final state prior to being displayed."
    Not only is found art incredibly economical (after all, scavenging is fee-free and basic tools and craft supplies are either hiding in the garage or closet or can be purchased for a song), it can actually become a valuable decorative accent — to say nothing of a great conversation piece.
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