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Sculptures at Home: #2 Louise Nevelson

Photos (l-r) by G. R. Christmas, © ADAGP, Paris. and Lynn Gilbert.

 

Sculptures at Home give you a chance to make your own artworks with materials that are commonly found at home. You can make them on your own, or with your family, pals, kids, pets, neighbours or anyone else you might be sharing your home with during these unprecedented times.

For our second sculpture, we’re going to look at an artist who used a method called assemblage to make her artwork. Assemblage is a form of sculpture that’s created by collecting together found objects and arranging them in such a way that they produce a new meaning and become a new object. These objects can be made from anything you find around you, even items that are in the bin. For example, artists from the arte povera movement, made amazing artworks from everyday materials including, dirt, rags and sticks. They wanted to challenge and disrupt the commercial contemporary gallery system by creating art from the debris of contemporary life.

About the artist:

Louise Nevelson is an important figure in 20th-century sculpture, she’s known for her monumental, monochromatic wooden wall pieces. Nevelson grew up playing with scraps and offcuts from a timber yard near her home and later used wooden objects that she gathered from urban debris piles to create her monumental installations.

Nevelson carefully arranged objects in order to use the discarded to create new narratives. The stories told by them are the result of her life and experiences – as a Jewish child relocated to America from Ukraine, as an artist in the USA and Germany, and as a successful female artist working within the male-dominated realm of the New York gallery system.

Photo by Alabama Chanin

 

 

When you make your sculptures, use materials that you find in your surroundings. For our sculpture we looked in our bins. Helping us think about how much we discard and the transformational role that art can have. 

How to:

Can you find beauty in your bin? Time to rummage around and find your objects to use. You’ll need something like a shoe box or a cereal box to use as your frame. Nevelson often stacked these frames or boxes on top of each other, so these sculptures are ideal for making with other people or doing multiple times by yourself. You could also use something circular to hang as a wall piece when completed

You’ll need: 
  • Box/frame – shoe box, cereal box, or another type of box.
  • Bits and bobs – items from the bin or around the house that no longer have any use. Look for interesting shapes. We used some egg shells, cans, nails, and other odds and ends. 
  • Papier mache
    • Flour
    • Water
    • Mixing bowl
    • Spoon
  • Paint – the thicker the better.

 

  1. Collect your items together. Cut open your box to make a frame to place your other objects into. 

 

2. Make the papier mache. 

Mix one part flour with one part of water (eg, 1 cup flour  and 1 cup water, or 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water) until you get a thick glue-like consistency. Add a bit more water if it’s too thick.

Mix well with a spoon to get rid of all the lumps.  If you find you are getting lumps in your glue, you can use a small kitchen electric mixer to whizz them out. Add a few tablespoons of salt to the final mixture to help prevent mold.

Notes:
  • You need to use strips of newspaper only, or even paper tissues or towels.
  • Let the newspaper strips soak in the paper mache glue a little before using.
  • Cover your artwork with only 2-3 layers, then let dry completely. This is an important step.
  • Once a layer is dry you can add 2-3 more layers, remembering to let each layer dry before adding the next one.
  • The final layer can be plain paper – so it’s easier to paint – but use the thinnest paper possible and make sure it’s soaked well in the paper mache glue.

 

 

3. After your items have dried. Try assembling them in different ways until you find a composition or relationship between them that you’re happy with. Think about building up layers of shapes and textures, like background, middle ground and foreground. Notice some of the techniques that Nevelson incorporated for guidance.

 4. Papier mache these items into the box. This will make your sculpture stronger and make it look more like a whole. Allow to dry.

5.  Paint your box. Nevelson used monochromatic colours, but really you could paint them your favourite colour. We went true to Nevelson and used some left over white emulsion paint.

 

Your sculpture is complete, you can stack and stick them together or you can make a wall hanging one like me did. if you put your sculpture with someone else’s, stacking them together in a similar way to Nevelson, what do they represent about you  and how do the different arrangements differ from person to person? 

Don’t forget to tag your sculptures: #sculpturesathome #spgathome