Lost and Found: Assemblage Artists of Northern California
Spencer Brewer and Esther Siegel and Spencer Brewer
2022 / Esther Siegel & Spencer Brewer
Review by Kathy Parsons
Lost and Found: Assemblage Artists of Northern California is a delightful and thought-provoking tour through the world of assemblage art through the eyes and hands of eight prominent Northern California assemblage artists. If the term "assemblage" is new to you, it is a process of taking found objects (usually three-dimensional, but not always) and assembling them in ways that are different from their original intended purpose. Sometimes the themes are humorous, sometimes very serious, and sometimes the objects are reassembled in ways that demonstrate their beauty from an unexpected angle. Looking into the artwork beyond the assembled pieces will often tell you a great deal about the artist as well as the the specific piece of art. Having been an art major in college myself, I remember creating some assemblages and this book might be just what I need to try it again!
The eight featured artists are Spencer Brewer (yes, Spencer Brewer the pianist/composer), Hans Bruhner, Larry Fuente, Dianne Hoffman, Cat Kaufman, Monty Monty, Sean O'Donnell, and Esther Siegel. There is also a chapter that features assemblage pieces that Spencer Brewer and Esther Siegel collaborated on. Each artist is featured in a chapter in the book, and they explain their backgrounds as well as their approaches to assemblage art. It's enlightening to read each artist's words and allows the reader to get to know each of them a bit. And there are TONS of photos of the various pieces!
Spencer Brewer is a man who wears many, many hats, and one of his many careers has been as a piano technician, rebuilder and restorer, so many of his assemblage pieces include parts of musical instruments - especially piano parts. I've known Spencer for about thirty years, and his creativity knows no bounds (neither does his sense of humor!)! The late Hans Bruhner created his pieces mainly from wood and they are often depictions of animals and birds - real or imagined. Larry Fuente's work often involves a lot of beads and found pieces that transform other items into stunning works of art - some of these these are cars and life-size sculptures - truly amazing stuff! Dianne Hoffman uses found objects to create "dimensional worlds of allegory where tall tales are told, jokes are cracked, emotions stirred, and poems imparted." Her work is fascinating and quite different from the others. Cat Kaufman uses mostly objects gifted to her in her work. She often arrives at her studio to find boxes of all kinds of things and then sets out to repurpose them. Monty Monty loves antiques and early forms of transportation and refers to his work as "Vintage Collectable Sculpture and Assemblage." Many of his pieces are whimsical creations of cars, trucks, airplanes, bikes and motorcycles, but he's also created animals out of an amazing assortment of "stuff." Sean O'Donnell is also fascinated by musical instruments and often uses them or parts of them in his work. He wants to know the history of many of the items used in his assemblages so that he can incorporate their stories into the sculptures. Esther Siegel calls herself a "later in life" artist, but she brings a wealth of experience to her charming works that are often strikingly beautiful and created from a variety of unusual items that sometimes refer to artist Frida Kahlo. Her work with Spencer Brewer allows both of their spirits to shine and to soar.
The book includes descriptions of the various works written by the individual artists, a chapter on each artist's sources of inspiration, and a brief history of assemblage art written by Cat Kaufman with Victoria Calkins. The book is a work of art itself and I very highly recommend it!
Lost and Found is available from www.lostandfound.art.
March 22, 2023