"Piece by Piece" Assemblage Art Exhibit runs May 8-30

April 13, 2015


assemblage  [uh-sem-blij]

(noun) – a form of sculpture comprised of found objects arranged in such a way that they create a  3 dimensional piece

Carol Hilgemann
Carol Hilgemann: “If Walls Could Talk”

During the month of May, The Matthews art gallery will featuring eight assemblage artists during the “Piece by Piece” art exhibit being held May 8-30, 2015.  The opening reception for the exhibit is 5-7:00 p.m., Friday, May 8 in the art gallery.

Assemblage is an art form is produced by the incorporation of everyday objects into the composition. Although each non-art object, such as a piece of rope or newspaper, acquires aesthetic or symbolic meanings within the context of the whole work, it may retain something of its original identity. The finished pieces are typically in three-dimensional (3D) form.  Since assemblage art is closely related to collage, it is different in that collage tends to be 2D rather than 3D. As much as by the materials used, it can be characterized by the way in which they are treated.

The term assemblage, as coined by the artist Jean Dubuffet in the 1950s, may refer to both planar and three-dimensional constructions. By 1954 Dubuffet had extended the term to cover a series of three-dimensional works made from primarily natural materials and objects. The concept of assemblage was given wide public recognition by the exhibition The Art of Assemblage at MOMA, New York, in 1961. This show included works by nearly 140 international artists. Several of the works shown were in fact collages, but the breadth of styles and artists included reflected the wide application of the term and the sometimes fine distinction between assemblage and collage.

In the visual arts, one of the most notable early attempts to use non-artistic materials can be found in Edgar Degas’s Little Dancer Aged 14 (1880–81; bronze version, London, Tate). In an attempt to achieve greater realism, Degas included a real muslin skirt and hair ribbon in the bronze version, and the original clay and wax version also included a horse-hair wig.

Featured Artists

Joe Barany* – bio below
Mae B. Gill* – bio below
Carol Hilgemann* – bio below
Erica Merchant – bio below
Desy Schoenewies – bio below
James Louks – bio below
JB Hoffman – bio below
Ethan Engel* bio below

* gallery artist

Joe Barany
Joe Barany: “Shell Casing”

Feather artist, sculptor and woodworker, Joe Barany, was born in Ohio and lived there intermittently growing up. A  self-described gypsy, he and his family moved almost yearly, owing to his father’s specialized construction schedule.

His natural affinity for art was shaped by exposure to his father’s work. He graduated with a degree in Architecture from Ohio State University.

While successfully practicing architecture for 30 years in Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina, he also studied Tai Chi, Yoga, and the Art of Conscious Living.

Joe relocated to the Black Hills in 2000 to refocus his creative interests and energies with the understanding that, “It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”


Ethan Engel was born in Winner, South Dakota in 1990. His passion for art began at age 4 when his grandmother taught him how to paint ceramics.

Ethan Engel’s artwork takes a critical view on his life journey with Autism through mixed media artwork. He was the subject of bullying by others who misjudged Ethan and his disability. He is on a journey to share his story through art.

Since 2009, Ethan has been attending Black Hills State University pursuing a double major in Art and Graphic Communication, with a double emphasis in Mass Communication: Photography and Commercial Art. He is currently the President of the BHSU Art Club and occupies a student studio space located on campus.

Growing up around Winner, SD, a rural community, it was common to find many discarded, rusty objects from ranches and farms. These pieces vary from farming equipment, automotive parts, and rusty bed springs that have a history of human interaction, yet life as they are altered by exposure to nature. In Engel’s assemblages, he combines these random objects to create a new history with my interaction. Consequently, the spirit of these neglected objects alters them towards a new artistic identity. Whether they reference animal or human forms, he finds these new identities playful because there shouldn’t be any logical reason as to why these random objects are assembled together, yet they take on new meaning beyond their original function.

Assemblage artist, Mae Gill, was born in Michigan, but grew up between there and Florida. She came to Spearfish in 1998 and fell in love with the Black Hills.

Mae is a 5th grade special education teacher in the Belle Fourche school district.  She loves nature, wood, creating and re-creating, being inspired and inspiring others.  Gill uses wood in some of her art because wood speaks to her of the past, the present and the future.  Mae sees it as a symbol of life and rebirth.  Her work reminds her to stay cognizant of the fragility and splendor of life and what this Earth has to offer.  The insertion of mirrors in her pieces connects the viewer to the art. It’s also a reminder to be reflective.

Mae also enjoys photography, painting, making fabric art, writing stories and poetry, and working with children. 

Says Gill, ” I am very excited to be able to display some of my art here at the Spearfish Art Gallery.  I hope you enjoy my labor of love.”

Assemblages and collages have been noticeably practiced since the early 20th century. To Carol Hilgemann these techniques are the perfect metaphor for the culture of our times. Hunting, gathering, stockpiling, and sorting images, objects, and ideas become major components of my creative expression as antique and commonplace objects are figuratively and symbolically pieced together in intimate, small-scale assemblages/collages.

The fragments that make up the assemblages are similar to the images and moments that make up our daily lives. Each element has a history and a context. No fragment is important by itself, but taken altogether, they assume a significance that is greater than the sum of the parts.

Carol intends to have the pieces work at the visual level by the careful placement of objects as distinct, but related forms, and at the emotional level by suggesting important cultural and spiritual content from the “artifacts.” She is interested in evoking memory and emotion from the debris of life, reinventing and redefining, mixing the mysterious with the popular, always alert to unexpected relationships. Using materials that have a previous history gives the work a multitude of meanings. Ultimately, assemblages are representations of the complexity of human existence.

JB Hoffman was raised on a ranch north of Wall, SD and graduated high school from there. His grade school years were spent in many one room country schools. He had an attraction to all things mechanical from a very early age and was building his own jitneys by age 14 or 15. Hoffman went on to become a mechanic and welder by trade. In the early 90s, he started developing some artistic bent and worked in mediums like birch bark and ivory and wood carving. From 1995-2001, JB was building high-end, free form log furniture in Alaska. His foray into assembled art is fairly recent. When Hoffman was invited to show some pieces in a local gallery and a few of them sold, he decided to spend more time letting the creative juices flow.

James Louks was born in Wyoming and grew up in South Dakota, graduating from Black Hills State University in 2010. He completed his MFA at the University of Montana in 2014 where he also served as a Co-Director of FrontierSpace, an alternative gallery located in downtown Missoula, Montana.

Currently, Louks is an Adjunct Instructor of Art and Art History at Black Hills State University.

Erica Merchant is an adjunct instructor at Black Hills State University teaching Ceramics, Sculpture, and Art History. She is also the Director of Sturgis Center for the Arts, a non-profit art and music center in Sturgis. Erica received her Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from University of South Dakota. Her art work can be seen across the region. It’s also traveling with the Governor’s biennial, and finally, she has a solo show at University of Minnesota at Fergus Falls.

The events and objects Erica creates all have stratified layers of materials, information, and meaning.  The materials she chooses display the pluralism of  individual histories. The energy of the materials, the origin, their source and their utilitarian presence are very important to the subject’s personal history. The materials are then exposed to tension, compression, or heat to build the forms.  Like the earth’s tectonic discipline shows, tension, compression and heat deliver the most efficient results. 

Desy Schoenewies received her M.F.A. in painting from Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Missouri in 2010. Her Master’s thesis work consists of large scale figurative oil painting in a series titled, Interactions. In addition to oil painting, she has experience working with a number of mediums and themes, including encaustic, collage, drawing, and illustrative works. Her paintings are consistently exhibited in juried or invited exhibitions in local, national, and international shows. Desy has taught middle school and high school art in the St. Louis area for 9 years before moving to San Francisco, California in 2010. She taught art at City College of San Francisco and was involved in a number of drawing and painting groups in California before moving to the Black Hills of South Dakota in 2012. Desy is in her third year as an assistant professor of art at Black Hills State University.



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