Let's Define it: Found Objects

December 8, 2021

Found objects

According to this article from Tate Modern, a found object is "a natural or man-made object, or fragment of an object, that is found (or sometimes bought) by an artist and kept because of some intrinsic interest the artist sees in it".

There is an incredibly rich tradition of using found objects and recycled materials throughout art history. In addition, there are plenty of famous artists who dabbled in making meaning of everyday objects by displaying them in different contexts and transforming them in a variety of ways.

As we begin our exploration together, we thought it might be fun to take a look at this History of Found Object Art, as well as 11 Everyday Objects Transformed Into Extraordinary Works of Art, a wonderful list of sculptures made from mundane materials. Let us know which is your favorite use of materials!

Pictured Above: Caricature of Albert Einstein by Lou Hirshman, with mop hair, brush nose and mustache, abacus chest. Source

Picutred above: Takahiro Iwasaki, Geo Eye (Victoria Peak) (2012). Source

Three Found Object Artists

Instead of a singular artist feature this week (and in honor of our new community prompt) we thought it might be fun to showcase the work of three found objects artists to get you thinking broadly about using everyday objects. We hope you'll enjoy these three mini-documentaries below.

Fred Cole

"I know I can drill a hole in there . . . when I get the feeling that something's going to work, I stick to it . . . because I so love to turn out something good."

In this video tribute, found object assembly artist, Fred Cole, takes you into his workshop, his home, and even out to the woodpile in his backyard to tell the viewer about his process of making, tinkering, and assembling. We love this intimate look inside his process and the casual "knowledge bombs" about life, art, and collecting junk his drop along the way.

Betye Saar

"The creative part of me is forever young. . . my favorite place to look for objects to use in my art is a flea market or swap meet."

Saar is a 95-year-old African-American artist whose primary art form is assemblage, or sculpture made from pieced together with found items. Her work frequently addresses spirituality and black oppression.

As a community of older artists, we are particularly inspired by Saar and excited to share this beautiful interview and look into the highly organized chaos of her Los Angeles studio. You can read more about her work
here on the MOMA website.

Brian Petro

"I'm constantly looking for things on the street, in the alleys, in dumpsters, blowing down the street. . . wherever I go there are so many things that are lying there wanting to be used and repurposed."

We love Brian's love of commercially manufactured items and the beautiful connections he makes to family and memory through the selection and arranging of his work. Brian passed away in 2016, but you can read more about the work he left behind from his 17 years of working and collecting materials from the street here or here.