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Artists are collectors

Last week I discussed how artists are rule-breakers. In thinking of characteristics that define artists I have discovered a few more that I thought I would discuss over the coming weeks. This week I will focus on artists as collectors.

Many of us know people who collect things: stamps, knickknacks, coins, etc. What I am talking about in this case are images, ideas and inspirations as well as elements that end up in the art itself. Though many artists do collect materials and supplies, many also act as researchers constantly observing their environment and surroundings.

Often artists collect the images they see in a journal, on a camera or in a file folder system of imagery that they can pull on when needed. These inspirations are what form their creative output and what drives their process of making art.

I discussed the idea of inspiration a few weeks ago and how knowing an artists’ muses can help make the viewing of their art more fulfilling.

Often artists will mention that they pick up treasures off the street, in nature and around the house to help jump-start a project. This is a form of collecting as often the items end up in boxes, bins and counter tops until they are needed as the perfect missing piece to the artistic puzzle.

I cannot tell you how often I pick up things and set them aside remembering them at the very right moment for the perfect placement in a project that had nothing to do with the object in the beginning but the connection was made and the process of collecting, creating and completing comes full circle.

I collect fabric among other treasures and a student mentioned yesterday as we were weaving fabric strips onto pieces of salvaged cardboard that “artists can make something from nothing.” She does have a point, and this is where the collecting comes in handy for an artist.

A perfect example of an artist who makes something from nothing and is a collector extraordinaire is Vik Muniz who works in New York City and is a native of Brazil.

In the movie, Wasteland, a documentary film about his work, we see him travel back to his homeland to create art from garbage in the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. In this movie directed by Lucy Walker and nominated for an academy award for best documentary in 2011, the audience watches as Muniz works with garbage pickers, catadores as they collect treasures for his recreations of masterpieces that he stages in big warehouses and then photographs.

The results are amazing. I got to see them in the Fritz Museum in Nashville and in progress in the film. This is an artist whose collecting instinct has informed his entire creative process and transformed garbage into works of art. Check out this film and see the art of collecting and creating at its finest.

ANDI BEDSWORTH is owner of Art To Go, which brings free art opportunities to children in the community.