When we first featured the work of collage artist Mark Wagner, we were tickled by the whimsical scenes he created using only cut-up dollar bills. Since then Wagner’s remained on our radar, so I was rather pleased to watch this recent video interview with the artist published by the Avant/Garde Diaries. I don’t know which is the best part of the video: Wagner’s commentary on his chosen medium or the timelapse scene of Wagner creating his version of American Gothic.
In the interview Wagner says that because of his work, he sometimes loses touch with the conventional meaning of the dollar bill:
For a collage artist, destruction is the first necessary step. Your materials need to be broken down before they can be put back together in a new way. Sometimes I stop thinking about it as a dollar bill – I just think about it as materials. I have to remind myself sometimes that it’s worth money. I have to remind myself what it means to people.”
In his work Wagner often focuses on money-related themes like capitalism and the dichotomy between white and blue collar workers. With the dollar bill as his medium, Wagner portrays both the human traps we create through currency and the irrelevance of money to the actual state of living. “Money and currency don’t actually exist in the real world,” Wagner says. “They’re just something we made up.”
In the interview Wagner also notes that using dollar bills draws more attention to his work:
I think the worth of a dollar bill and the taboo around destroying a dollar bill makes people pay more attention to what it is that I’m doing than if I was using any other piece of paper.”
Find more of Wagner’s work here.