Monday, July 4, 2016

Making art out of the U. S. currency

Money may well have made many a political career but one American artist has now forged his own success crafting politicians themselves out of cold hard cash.

Meticulously handcrafted using small pieces of money -- mostly U.S. one dollar bills --Mark Wagner's currency collages reconfigure the familiar green and black paper into mythical creatures, fantastical garden scenes and US politicians past and present.

Originally a printer and specialist book binder who has long dabbled in collage, Wagner first started cutting up dollar bills as material for his art in 1999 after he went looking for the most "common" paper he could find to use for one particular piece.

He soon came to realize the versatility money gave him as a medium, as well as the possibilities to explore what money means to people and the essential part it plays in everyone's life.

Each collage is created using small pieces of deconstructed bills, carefully glued into place using a brush, and Wagner uses every single part of the bill, whether it be for Abraham Lincoln's nose, Barack Obama's ears or for decorative framing around the edge.


The artist doesn't normally track how many bills he uses to create a collage, but says he did do a full accounting of the money used for one 17 foot tall collage he created of the Statue of Liberty -- which took 1,121 one dollar bills and 81,895 individual scraps of those bills.

This may sound expensive, but Wagner is extremely careful with his money, painstakingly positioning each small piece of money so it doesn't overlap too much, which makes his currency a cheaper artistic material than oil paint. The egalitarian nature of the bills also appeal to him, which he translates into the way its sold through posters, prints and other renderings.

And although cutting up U.S. tender is technically illegal, Wagner says he has never had any problems with law enforcement.

The U.S. Federal Reserve itself recently acquired some of his now highly-collectible art while the National Portrait Gallery, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution, once displayed a piece of his just three blocks from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters.


Extracted from original article by Georgia McCafferty for CNN July 4, 2016

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