Assemblage artist Jen Hardwick takes you into her world of salvaged metal and rusty objects. Enjoy her work on her website.
Art has been a part of my life for as long as I can recall. As a young girl I drew and painted and dreamt of being an artist. I grew up in a small town in Washington state and moved to Seattle after graduation to attend the Art Institute of Seattle. At the time I was pursuing a career in the fashion industry.
I’m a self-taught artist and I’ve worked in many different mediums. I thought my art career would be as a painter but three years ago I signed up for my first art show and started working with recycled materials. At the time I had no idea that these assemblages would become my passion and take me along an entirely different artistic path.
I’ve always been drawn to things from the past, to items that bring me back to my childhood or carry a sense of history. The materials I work with are my main inspiration. A rusty wrench is a robot arm, some rusty keys are wings or tail feathers. A box of someone else’s “junk” is a bottomless well of potential assemblage pieces for me.
When I have an idea for a piece I will start going through my boxes of materials to find the right elements or I will sketch it out and dream up my ideal finished assemblage. Sometimes I build the piece on a wood panel that is covered in vintage book pages and painted or I will use a box or bowl to build from. I use strong adhesives and screw as many materials into the panel as I can.
I have to think out what pieces to start with and layer from there. Completion time is all about the amount of detail. I’ve assembled simple pieces on small panels in a matter of hours and I’ve spent months agonizing over the tiniest elements in huge collages. It’s all about that artist’s sense of just knowing when a piece is truly done.
Recently I’ve been working on three-dimensional sculptures, leaving the panels behind and building freestanding figures. I seem to be building up instead of out these days. I also love boxes and have created several pieces using old wooden boxes as both frame and background. I’ve been toying with the idea of learning to weld and working on larger, more elaborate sculptures.
Assemblage has allowed me to finally find a place in the art world that I feel is my own. I love the materials, I love the process, I love the finished pieces. It really is amazing to me how a handful of rusty bits can become such lovely artwork.