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...feed your soul with art & creativity!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Oh the Joy of a Rusty Toy!

When I see rusty bits of metals, odd springs or screws, nuts and bolts or brass findings, I cannot help but sort them in my mind's eye into a semblance of something new and different than their intended uses.  Like one of my favorite found object artists, Michael deMeng, I am fascinated with rusty stuff.  When I first happened upon deMeng in 2009, I was already futzing around with found objects and creating unusual combinations or as deMeng calls it, "Oddification"--a term I find a perfect fit--the modification of odd items to make new 'somethings' (my definition, not his--you can find his at his blog.)

(c) Michael deMeng, used by permission.
"Urning Rubber"
In 2007, deMeng wrote Secrets of Rusty Things.

(c) Michael deMeng, used by permission of the author/artist.
In a sense, deMeng is a modern art Dr. Frankenstein--taking bits and pieces and bringing them "to life" in a new creation.  The moniker is fitting on the whole and taken from the perspective of the 'uninitiated'--my niece for example, who says the art pieces are "weird," "odd," "scary," "fun," "funky," and "bizarre," by turns.  I can't say how deMeng would feel about these labels, but as for me, I'd be thrilled to know my artwork provokes others.  Yet I do not in any way get the sense that his work is contrived just to get a rise from people.  Being that his star is on the rise, this becomes more and more a challenge as continuing to please "the people" can be consuming to artists. As an artist gains acceptance and an audience, it gets more difficult to create from the heart without regard to the audience.

(c) Michael deMeng, used by permission.  Archangel Michael.
Besides the details on how he combines unrelated pieces to create a new creature (or artwork), I genuinely found the stories that accompany the instructions and the art in his books to be fascinating. In fact, finding great "junk" is a necessity for an assemblage artist.  I already scheduled my calendar to attend one of the largest antique shows in Florida to scour the place for fun items I want to incorporate into my own assemblages.  When I read his stories, I felt that he must at some point truly get into "the zone" (you know the one I'm talking about) where he is working and immersed without being necessarily aware of the culmination of his creative thoughts into the actual work.

(c) Michael deMeng. Used by permission.  Diablo.

Secrets of Rusty Things was followed in 2009 with Dusty Diablos.

(c) Michael deMeng, used by permission of the author/artist.

His works are often filled with images and have names, if not directly related to deities, then at least reminiscent of a deity.  To me his work makes him a mundane reincarnologist--though he and the end result of his work are anything but mundane.  (Yes, yes, I know, I'm making up words again.)  As those who visited my "Recycled + Repurposed = Reincarnated" solo show last year know, I am all about recycling/upcycling and repurposing and most of my artwork is driven by the threads of the spiritual whisperings that are woven throughout my life.  As a result, deMeng's work speaks loudly to me and demands my attention.
(c) Michael deMeng, used by permission.  Dream Keeper.

deMeng is not hugely world renown (yet) but he and his works are something of a phenomena in the circle of crafters who attend arts and crafts retreats such as Art Is You or other workshops and retreats around the country (and a few outside of the USA).  He is the darling of the craft world and his classes rarely have openings in them.  He is also active in promoting the abandoned art movement (a stem of guerrilla artworks where artists anonymously leave art behind for others to randomly find and keep.)  
(c) Michael deMeng. Used by permission. "Our Lady"
While there isn't much known about him (very little available on Wikipedia, for example) his books are very revealing about his process and adoration of all things vintage, rusty, antique and upcyclable into art.  Many of his artworks are reminiscent of angels,  monsters or demons or mythological characters.  Almost all of them seem to be steeped in a spirituality that leads, in the end result, to a sense of sacred artwork.  There is a definite feel of a Hispanic sensibility in that many of his works play with themes often seen in Day of the Dead artwork of Mexico.  Having myself grown up surrounded in New Mexico by a heavy duty Southwestern Hispanic and Catholic influence, I find the works beckon me at a quite visceral level of connection.

I don't know how much of his artwork is shown at galleries or museums or how much he is concerned about having it appear in these venues.  I know he is enormously popular as a figure leading the charge in assemblage art.  Whether or not he will be able to transit from a sort of "cult pop icon" to a larger audience remains to be seen.  I think he fits somewhere between folk, whimsy, and modern art, but the labels are really not as important as the impact of the art. My greatest fears for his work are 1) that he may become such a cult figure in the craft world that he gets bored with what he is doing or 2) he loses the genuine feel of the work or 3) with so many students of his work, the "copycats" are bound to appear and overrun the market with similar works. My hope is that those who are "following" him find their own voice and method of expression.  I'd hate to see his work go the way of Kelly Rae Roberts and become the ad nauseum of rustic assemblage artworks.  I think deMeng's art makes a statement beyond that which it has been recognized for thus far by the "art world."
Text (c) SZing, 2012.  All photos and video in this blog entry are (c) Michael deMeng, used by written permission of the artist.