May 28, 2004

What Is Altered Art? Assemblage?

Altered Art

Altered art embraces many art forms, but most closely resembles a combination of mixed media and collage genres. Altered art can also be a form of recycling, or a way to use everyday objects in an unusual or unique way. It can give a new life to old items through the use of techniques and combinations of techniques - the result being a creative and artistic piece. Usually flat, and two-dimensional, altered artwork can also include found objects. In short, altered art is taking an item or items, adding to them, combining them, rearranging them, and creating a piece of artwork.

In the example on the right, I used a vintage bingo card from a 1936 Milton Bradley game I purchased on eBay. I added a vintage image, fabric wings, a metal wand, beads, a glass vial, star brads, a plastic bingo chip, a crown charm, and then added a wire hanger.


Assemblage is a cousin to collage, and is an artistic process of which a three-dimensional composition is made from putting together several found objects. Common, or even uncommon, objects are assembled together, and used to make jewelry (such as bottlecaps), shadow-box assemblages, or can be found in the form of an altar and shrine. This type of artwork is generally comprised of natural or manufactured materials, or a combination of both.

I made this piece for a friend who was in need of something to put on the wall of a seaside bedroom. I started with a wooden 8x10 shadowbox, painted it, papered it, glittered it, and glued the wooden "Dream" cut out to the top. I then filled it with things related to the sea; fish charms, a message bottle (that I first decorated), real seashells and starfish, a wooden treasure chest, beads, pearls, fishing net, vintage images, rhinestones and seashell trim.


Just about any objects can be used to create altered art or assemblage pieces. If you're going for a certain theme, group like objects together. An eclectic piece doesn't require similitude.

Found objects are an intregal part of altered art. You can buy faux vintage images and metal whatnots, but the beauty of altered art is in re-using otherwise discarded materials: old magazines, broken jewelry and dolls, fabric scraps.

Creating an altered art or assemblage piece can be a way to creatively preserve family history, special people or events, or to display a collection.