Interview: Assembling the World at Hand

Poor Yorick’s Brian Lance talked with Charles Bechtel—sculptor, writer, teacher—about assembling scenes from the reclaimed pieces of everyday life.


PY: How did you discover Poor Yorick and what drove your decision to submit your work to us?

CB: I discovered Poor Yorick through a Facebook friend whose post informed me of a call for submissions of artwork made from found or repurposed articles. I had just started my Assemblages, having completed maybe nine or so, and I felt they might serve the mission of the publication and my desire to do something beyond the manufacturing of them.


PY: We are lucky enough to have six of your sculptures, or assemblages, published in our journal. Who has influenced your creative process in relation to your sculptures?

CB: As far as the first six go, the objects themselves influenced me, as did the space I had to work in. I was not trying to recreate an already existing image (which I have subsequently done), nor to extend the ideas of others (such as Louise Nevelson or Joseph Cornell).  The shapes and textures of the objects, the suggestions of a context when the objects are brought together, a sense of balance and coordination in the sizes, all informed what I should do with the materials. The final “decider” was always the box into which the materials would be put.


PY: Where did you get your materials for your sculptures?

CB: I took from whatever was near at hand, mostly junk in my tool shed or forgotten in my yard.


PY: You juxtapose organics and inorganics, bones and metals, throughout the assemblages, especially in Elementals and Ovoids. What’s the significance in that juxtaposition? What fascinates you about that pattern connecting your pieces?

CB: There’s not a lot that falls outside of the circumscribing terms “organics and inorganics.” Juxtaposing them was a necessity, unless I confined myself to one or the other. More than juxtaposing materials here, I was also working with the tensions between denotative and connotative expression, something that always fascinated me. The denotative value of any object rests in its color, size, proportions, textures, et cetera, but the connotative values—such as that in a skull—paired with others makes an open narrative a viewer can arrange to his or her heart’s content. That’s fun.


PY: How do you choose titles for your Assemblages?

CB: Titles, which act as handles, can become a gateway to a specific narrative, and in that way they can be a limitation. I want to open the possibility to various narratives, even those I could never conceive or even condone—all are valid. If I used a title to frame a work in order to limit the possibilities of private narratives, I’d be doing myself, the work, and the viewer a profound disservice. I do not think titling is arbitrary in the sense that it is willy-nilly. A thinking artist arbitrates with himself or herself about the title in exactly the same way he or she selects an element within the artwork. All must work to serve.


Brian Lance
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