BOOK YOUR TRIP
Some assembly required
Wonderful Weddings in Cool Places
The coolest paddling routes

Assemblage: A work of art made by grouping found or unrelated objects.

By themselves, those objects are just discarded human possessions. They turn up along railroad tracks, deep in the wilderness, and behind construction sites. Moss-covered, half-buried, and forgotten, they've been left to rot and rust and decay in the Adirondack soil. They're everywhere, and most people don't want them.

But artist Anastasia Osolin isn't most people. In her hands, the artifacts become something different, something that probably wasn't intended by whoever manufactured them. The finished pieces are intrinsically Adirondack — the ingredients were found here, after all — but their presence is conspicuous in a scene that's rife with nature paintings. 

"Adirondack art makes it all look like a very idyllic and pristine wilderness," Anastasia said. "I've come across a few old dumps in the woods, out in the Paul Smiths area, where people probably used to dump their household trash 100 years ago. Things like old antique glass bottles, metal cans, buckets and that kind of thing. I've found no less than three rusted out mattresses in the Adirondacks. I now have a big collection of rusty mattress springs."

Every good recipe requires the right ingredients.

Anastasia's assemblages marry seemingly unrelated parts — things like gaskets, doll heads, and watch gears — into three-dimensional expressions of curiosity, astronomy, fantasy, and reflections on human nature.

In one piece, the phrase "An Unreliable Machine" appears beneath a textbook-style depiction of a profile of a man's head. Inside the cranium are gears — not drawings of gears, but real gears — that can properly function together or cause problems for the entire machine if bent out of shape.

An Unreliable Machine.

That's the beauty of the assemblages. They inspire imagination, they demand conversation, and there's probably no absolutely correct way to interpret them. The text that appears on most of her work, which comes from places like 19th century fashion magazines and science textbooks, seems to simultaneously clarify and further add to the mystery of the piece.

Anastasia has been creating these curiosities for 20 years. They're a departure from her artistic roots doing illustrations, or perhaps they're an evolution of that pursuit. As a painter, she was drawn to surrealist and Dadaist works, and to assemblage artist Joseph Cornell.

"I've always been interested in collecting odd, miscellaneous things and images," Anastasia said. "I love going to flea markets and yard sales, and what I call low-end antique stores. I just started putting all of these things together."

An/other Life.

Inside her home studio there are shelves littered with an assortment of other oddities and unfinished pieces, some of which have been there for years. A life-sized baby's arm that used to belong to a doll protrudes from a basket; there's a pair of disc brakes on the floor.

Anastasia explains that a set of labeled drawers is an attempt to organize the various objects she's collected. The labels say things like flat things, round things, more round things, and bones, feathers, mica, shells.

The drawers open, the shelves clear, and the miscellaneous objects slowly find each other, like eclectic magnets. Parts are added and subtracted to a piece until it feels right.

"Sometimes I have a pretty clear idea of what I want to make and the kinds of things I need to fill it out, but usually I start shuffling things around," Anastasia said. "Occasionally it's serendipity. My studio, when I'm working, gets to be a real mess. There's stuff everywhere, and I'm just throwing stuff around, and on occasion something will land on something else and I'll think, 'Hey, those things look cool together.'"

Anastasia Osolin works on an assemblage in her Saranac Lake studio.

On the worktable there's a serious-looking doll's head mounted atop a body wearing a tiny, pressed dress. The doll is framed by a substance that looks white and fluffy, but probably isn't. She resides in a wooden box, her legs crossed as if waiting for something to enter.

Anastasia fiddled with a gear from a watch while she contemplated where to position the item. There seems to be a strange yet profound balance inherent in this process — many of the components must be forced from whatever object they're a part of, but their final placement isn't forced. Rather, they must wander the earth like milkweed fluff, coming to rest where the wind delivers them. In this way the assemblages will all come together eventually, in their own time, in their own way.

"I feel like the more of these things I have, the more I feel like I have to finish these things before I die," Anastasia said with a laugh. "If not, what's anybody going to do with them?"

Anastasia's work will be on display at the Adirondack Artists' Guild in Saranac Lake starting in May. She also has a show at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts next January and at The View in Old Forge next April.

Saranac Lake is a hot spot for the arts. Check out the events calendar to find out what's coming up, or simply head out on the town. You're sure to find some kind of cool art or music going on!


This week in related ADK discoveries:

Caching it in

Take me home

Where glass and art collide

The peace trail

Coastal treasure hunting

Unexpected things - in threes!

Hunting down history

Author:Shaun Kittle
Categories:Exhibits, Cultural, Arts
Wonderful Weddings in Cool Places
The coolest paddling routes

E-Newsletter Signup Form

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020
Our certified and licensed guides are available 7 days a week to lead you on Forest Bathing and Riverwalking sensory immersions in nature from July 5th to October 31st in the Tri-Lakes area....
Tuesday, August 11th, 2020
The nature trails at the Paul Smith's VIC are open dawn to dusk. Please remain socially distant.  The building will not be open this summer. In July, guided nature tours will begin. To...

Recent Blog Posts...

Monday, August 3rd, 2020
Not everyone has it in them to wake up before sunrise, load the car, and head out for an adventure. But Saranac Lake’s Keith Braun makes the argument that one should do exactly that in the...
Thursday, July 23rd, 2020
Hex and Hop Brewery and taproom in Bloomingdale is a unique place, offering not only great beers but also honey from their hives. The business, which is just about one year old, is abuzz with...
Earn Your Patch There’s an adventurous spirit in all of us. In Saranac Lake, you can answer that call by becoming a Saranac Lake 6er.
Unplug Outdoors The mountains, rivers, and lakes bordering Saranac Lake aren’t just for show, and those boots on everyone’s feet aren’t a bold new fashion statement.
Enter to Win Sample Saranac Lake with this getaway package. Enter now!
Sign up for our weekly newsletter.
Interested In
Sign Me Up!