Found Objects Find New Lives in Bonnie Meltzer’s Very Mixed-Media Art

Found object sculpture of house

Green aritst Bonnie Meltzer's sculpture "House Music" incorporates found objects.

Written by: Josephine Bridges

Look closely at Bonnie Meltzer’s mixed-media sculpture, and you’ll begin to notice the eco friendly house is an autoharp, the door is switch plates, and the chimney is a paintbrush.

“I believe in the transformation of the objects I use,” says green artist Bonnie Meltzer. “I was ready to throw out an autoharp because the ends of the strings were very sharp. I picked it up from a different angle, and it said: house. I liked the idea enough that I took the time to make sure my art wouldn’t be responsible for puncture wounds.”

Meltzer first started making her very mixed-media art in the 70s, when she discovered a surplus computer thrift store near her supermarket. “Found-object art is very in right now,” she says, “but when I started doing it, people thought it was odd.”

Globes, battered musical instruments, mirrors, hardware, all kinds of computer parts including their cords, and “a whole lot of things that I don’t what they are” form the basis for Meltzer’s work, but she has limits. “I don’t incorporate objects into my art that can still be used for the purpose for which they were made. No usable computers or musical instruments were harmed in the making of these sculptures.”

Where does the artist get her materials? “I’ve been collecting things forever. People bring them to me. I buy them at garage sales, second-hand stores, and specialty stores for artists. Sometimes when I want something that I don’t have, I go to my Facebook page and whine. I usually get something. I probably have enough stuff to use until the day I die, but I always want something different. I’m like a little bird. If I see something shiny, I want it.”

How does Meltzer get started on one of her sculptures? “Sometimes I start with an idea, often a title. Sometimes an object gives me an idea. A box of multicolored floppy disks fell on the floor and I thought: quilt blocks. Sometimes the act of cleaning my studio is an aha moment, because I find things I forgot I had.”

How does she put her found objects together and keep them that way? “I prefer objects with holes or loops, so I can sew, bolt, or screw them on, or embroider or sew beads onto them. I love glue. If you can’t sew it, sometimes you have to glue it. I crochet wire to encase an object or bind it to another object. You can see through a lot of the crocheted wire, look down into it and discover more layers, more visual treats.” Look through the pliers into the sound box of Meltzer’s eco friendly “House Music,” and you will see yourself.

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