Robert Villamagna

Addicted to Trash

Assemblage and Metal Collage

by Robert Villamagna

November 6 – December 31, 2015

Addicted to Trash/ Robert Villamagna

My earliest recollection of actually “making art” was at about age five, right after my parents and I returned from a day at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. My parents were not into art, so we did not visit the painting galleries. However, we did view a room filled with knight’s armor, and that had a huge impact on me. When we got home, I began to draw knights in armor, based on the examples I had seen that day in the Carnegie. I didn’t have a sketchbook then, or access to drawing paper. My mom provided me with flattened paper grocery sacks and pieces of white card stock that was part of the packaging of new shirts. Even back then, without my realizing it, I was making art using repurposed materials.

I am passionate about working with found materials, aka my “trash”. I am especially attracted to those items that show use, wear and even some rust. I love stuff with character. I often find myself wondering about the person who made these materials, who used them, who held them. I like to think that a part or energy of that person is still contained in these things, and now it’s transferred into the artwork. I’m giving that discarded piece of metal, or that old photograph, a new life, a different life. I am thrilled that I can use this stuff and that it becomes part of my creative process. These various materials are every bit as important to my art making as is a tray of oils are for a painter. For me, walking through a flea market is like walking through a well- stocked art materials store. The flea market is my palette.

Each piece I make begins with an idea or a spark. I take some time to think about what I want to say visually. I do sketch a lot, and I keep several sketchbooks or journals close at hand, including in my truck. I sketch out most of my ideas, but my finished work may not look exactly like those initial thumbnails, and that is OK. I like to leave plenty of room for serendipity.

Next, I decide on a support. I need a sturdy surface or container upon which I will be attaching my metal or objects. Figure/ground relationships and composition are important to me, so as I build a piece I am keeping design elements in my head. Then, I just build until I feel the work is finished. Sometimes, the question of knowing when to stop can be difficult to answer.

I don’t worry too much about the viewer’s response to my work. I know what my feelings are about the piece, but I would rather the viewer respond in his, or her own way. I do hope that I can engage the viewer for more than a few seconds. I love it when I can stand back and see a person actually studying a piece of work that I have created. That is exciting to me.

Looking back, I feel that I have been an artist nearly all of my life. From that very beginning with the knight’s armor, art has been a way for me to respond to my surroundings, both real and imagined.