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Meaning through Materiality (Story)

Meaning through Materiality

By: Frances Deese and Claire Dubnansky, NCMA Interns

When spring cleaning meets a global pandemic, creatives at home are thinking about how they can reuse and rework items around the house into works of art. Artists across the globe provide influence for repurposing a variety of mediums, and offer up pieces that reflect divergent thinking. Today we celebrate repurposing by exploring four NCMA artists. 


Materials as a Time Capsule

Look closely at Martha Jackson-JarvisCrossroads/Trickster I above. Can you spot the irregularly shaped bricks? The artist referred to these bricks as a “time capsule” because they were salvaged from the Polk Youth Prison located on the site until 1997.  Repurposing bricks that hold such historical significance provide an additional layer of meaning to the title Crossroads. 

Additional Artists

Explore resources below for additional artists who relate to materiality and repurposing.

  • Louise Nevelson created abstract assemblages from found objects painting them monochromatic to emphasize their power and monumentality. 
  • Vollis Simpson, a WWII Veteran from North Carolina, pursued his interest in wind power and has created works through repurposing industrial machine parts.
  • Nick Cave blends fashion and sculpture in his “Soundsuits” that emphasize material, as the suits create both sound and a barrier to the performer’s identity. 

Now more than ever people are using creative art practices with an emphasis on being intentional with their materials. The idea of giving an object a fresh life in a new art form and context has become increasingly popular. The repurposing of materials can be used to make both old and new connections.