Boxed In: The Art of Assemblage


“I take objects and put them into context for me,” says Joan Earnhart. “And whoever comes along will read into them what they will. That’s what art is all about.”

Her art form is called assemblage – a cross between sculpture and collage that involves more cutting and fitting than the traditional skills of molding and carving. The result is a three-dimensional artwork constructed of odds and ends: salvaged wood, metal, architectural ornaments, thrift shop castaways, long-orphaned mementos and nature’s detritus – a desiccated egg, the molted hull of a cicada, the bony gnarl of a weathered twig.

Joan Earnhart’s penchant for collecting life’s jetsam began in childhood. “I used to collect things, little fragments – the same things I do now. My mother would say, ‘Joanie, take out the trash.’ I’d take out the trash and I’d come back with things in my pockets – stuff that people threw away. I’d sneak it back in.”

What kind of things? “My mother had a compact that was broken. She threw it away, and I thought it was a treasure. So I brought it back in and put it in my little box under the bed.” Joan says that her mother would feign exasperation at her daughter’s magpie tendencies, asking, “What are you going to do with all this junk?”

Read the entire article in the January 2009 issue

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