Book Review: Collage, Assemblage, and Altered Art

Collage, Assemblage, and Altered Art Book Cover

Collage, Assemblage, and Altered Art: Creating Unique Images and Objects by Diane Maurer-Mathison. 2007. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications. ISBN 978-0-823-07113-5

Collage, Assemblage, and Altered Art by Diane Maurer-Mathison is a glimpse into the worlds of "traditional" collage (largely 2-dimensional works with paper), assemblage (3-dimensional collage with found or discarded objects), and altered art (changing existing objects—books, boxes, clothing—to pieces of art). Mathison starts with the accessible art form of collage, writing:

"Part of the reason collage is so popular is because it is non-intimidating. Unlike drawing and painting, were each stroke is a commitment that has to be kept, collage elements can be torn off or pasted over if you don't like the way your composition is growing." (p. 9).

The first section of the book focuses on basic equipment: adhesives, tools, supports, and papers. Mathison includes brief lessons and instructions on altering the paper (marbling, distressing, embossing, and stamping) with examples from working artists throughout.

The second section focuses on assemblage art and honing your eye toward objects to transform. "If the objects are old, rusted, weathered or incongruous, so much the better." (p. 77). The strength of this book is in its galleries representing a wide array of artist creations. In this section, the gallery included assemblage art dolls, jewelry, and shrines.

Rounding out the book is a section on altered art. Pretty much anything can be transformed: books, envelopes, boxes, clothing, accessories, compacts, needlework and textiles, instruments, dress forms.

Collage, Assemblage, and Altered Art was not the in-depth how-to book I was looking for, though that might be because I am familiar with many of the techniques covered. It is quite possible the lessons and projects scattered throughout the book will resonate more strongly with other readers. However, with close to 50 different artists represented, I did come away inspired by the obviously infinite possibilities collage, assemblage, and altered art can provide.

Have you read this book? Let me know what I got wrong (or right!).

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