My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Making my own Art Assignment

I’ve been watching The Art Assignment on YouTube and completing the assignments. I use being creative as a way to relax and get out of my head. So, I decided that I would make my own art assignment for a change.

It all started when I found this jar in the basement:

2015-09-06 15.52.42

I can’t remember what was in it before, but I wanted to do something creative with it. The smooth glass just looked so inviting. It was crying out for a purpose.

So then I found a bunch of stuff in junk drawers and corners around my house.

2015-09-06 15.52.51

Here is the final result:

My idea here was to use the technique of found objects to create something beautiful.I’m quire pleased with how it turned out. However, I also want my art to be a bit more interactive so I’m going to display my Jar of Wonders on my desk at work. For those of you who work with children or teenagers, you know that some of them are going to ask what the jar is for and I’m going to tell them it’s art. It’s up to them to interpret it after that. I will also have a number of precocious students who ask if they can have something they like out of the jar. I’m ready for that response too. If they want to take an object from the jar, they have to replace it with an item of equal value, not monetary value but artistic value, (which I will explain to them as the coolness value.) So, for example, how cool is my neon snap bracelet from the 1980s? What are they willing to give up that is as amazing as a tiny glass Hello Kitty bead I picked up in Taiwan? They will have to bring something in and argue its artistic value to me and if I am convinced, we will swap the items. That way the piece stays fluid and students have permission to interact with the art in a way that is forbidden in most galleries.

The idea for the Jar of Wonders comes from the French objet trouvé and involves taking objects that already have purpose and turning them into works of art. Artists such as Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp have created art using found objects, (see illustrations below.)

Still Life with Chair Caning, Picasso

Still Life with Chair Caning, Picasso

In this piece, Picasso used the seat of a cane chair as the basis for his still life. This forced a discussion of the blending of the mundane experience of everyday life with the high experience of art; the mass-produced elements blending with the skillfully crafted artistic ones. This was considered unusual as the art world of the time strictly separated the low, common experiences from the elevated experiences presented in artistic works.

Fountaine, Duchamp

Fountaine, Duchamp

In this well-known piece, Duchamp presented a signed urinal at the Society of Independent Artists, in 1917. The Society rejected it as not being art, despite the fact that the rules of the exhibition stated that any work would be accepted from artists who paid the fee. Again, this raises the question of if and how common objects and experiences can be part of art and of how commonality can still elicit strong emotions from an audience.

If you want to try this Art Assignment, see the instructions below:

  1. Find an interesting container.
  2. Fill it with your own found objects. You can use any materials that you like and arranged or affix them to your container using any method you prefer.
  3. Find a great place to display your found object art. You can make yours interactive (like I did) or not.
  4. Document your work and/or your process. Tweet it to me @JenMcAwesome
  5. Kudos from me (I’ll post your work on my Twitter and Blog to share with everyone).



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