make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend


Discussing the photo collages and wider practice of Dorothy Anderson Wasserman

In a conversation with STIR, the American artist explores her craft and discusses how her creative preoccupations greatly influence each other.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Aug 22, 2023

Dorothy Anderson Wasserman is a practitioner of great prolificity within American art. While many may confine her work to collage art and sculpture, already two distinct artistic mediums, the true breadth of her artmaking is much larger than even that, and stretches across photography, working as a dance choreographer, and more recently, the creation of art books that present her older works. Wasserman discusses her creative preoccupations, telling STIR “These artistic forms greatly influence each other when I create work. Photography, visual art and dance are three internal pathways within me that intersect at the point of my creative process.” She also adds music to this group, saying “Music is woven into the fabric of my life, so it plays a part in all of my projects and modes of expression.”

Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing?, 2023 Video: Courtesy of Dorothy Anderson Wasserman

Apart from her personal creative practice, Wasserman has spent 26 years as a full-time elementary school art educator in the public schooling system of New Jersey, United States. She looks back fondly to this time in her life, explaining that it taught her a great deal about time management. “Teaching art to children was gratifying and endearing, as well as being extremely demanding," she mentions. During these years, Wasserman was also a dance instructor in the evenings, and yet, still found the time and energy necessary to produce and exhibit her art.

‘Leaving New York’, 1999 | Dorothy Anderson Wasserman | STIRworld
Leaving New York, 1999 Image: Courtesy of Dorothy Anderson Wasserman

The American artist was born in Duluth, Minnesota in 1951, and after graduating from high school, would go on to pursue a BS in Art Education from the State University in New York at New Paltz. During this time, she studied sculpture, drawing, painting, photography, art education, and dance, with sculpture art being the oldest medium in the artist’s creative vocabulary, and one she began exploring in the 1960s. Dance would come much later, in 1973, but it is her role as a photographer, which she has nourished since the purchase of her first 35mm camera in 1968, that has laid the seeds for some of Wasserman’s most captivating works: her photo collages. Wasserman discusses her association with photography, telling STIR, “I have maintained a practice of documenting the people, places, and activities around me ever since I bought this camera. In 1999, I made my first photo collage Leaving New York, with my latest collage, 49 Self-Portraits, being completed in February of this year (2023).”

‘iCLAIRE’, 2002 |Dorothy Anderson Wasserman | STIRworld
iCLAIRE, 2002 Image: Courtesy of Dorothy Anderson Wasserman

Leaving New York was based on the artist’s experience of being caught in traffic for hours in lower Manhattan. She got out of her car and began taking photographs of the buildings and streets around her. Once the photos were developed, she collaged them together in order to deconstruct and then reconstruct the NYC scene. Later on, she would come to find inspiration in the likes of Hannah Höch, a German artist who was considered to be a leading figure in Dadaism by many during her day, and worked extensively with images from magazines. Romare Bearden was another notable influence, for his use of both magazine cutouts and coloured paper. Wassserman explains her affinity to these artists, among others, saying “They both assembled their pieces by hand, using scissors and glue. But my inspirations really come from a much broader palette: I worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for six years in their membership department, during which time I received an incredible education in art history by visiting their collections every day.” Beyond the Met, Wasserman has been actively involved in the arts for over 60 years now, and over that period, has engaged with a great deal of artistry, both historic and contemporary, all of which has come to define her approach towards artmaking.

‘Finale with the Directors’, 2022 |Dorothy Anderson Wasserman | STIRworld
Finale with the Directors, 2022 Image: Courtesy of Dorothy Anderson Wasserman

Wasserman’s collage work initially saw her transferring photographs onto fabric, which she then used in sculptures and tapestries. As her practice evolved, she began collaging the photographs themselves and had the finished pieces scanned and printed. She tells STIR, “Each collage begins with ideas from personal experiences, philosophical concepts, theoretical physics, music, and from my thoughts about life. They are loosely planned in my sketchbook, with drawings that work out the spatial perspective and the placement of the subjects. Photographs are taken specifically for each new piece, and stories are formed from the relationships between the setting and the subjects.” Initially, Wasserman would work with 35mm black and white film, but this was not cost-effective as film is very expensive and she needed to take a large number of photographs for every artwork, never knowing if and how they would fit together. Eventually, she began using colour digital images and has stuck with them ever since. She does not regret this decision in the slightest, and calls the shift from black and white to colour 'thrilling'.

‘Portrait of the artist’ |Dorothy Anderson Wasserman | STIRworld
Portrait of the artist Image: Richard Edelman, Courtesy of Dorothy Anderson Wasserman

Finale with the Directors, one of the latest collages from the visual artist, marked the first time that she digitally combined photographs, however, she still hand-built the work. She expresses a great deal of excitement at acclimatising herself to digital workspaces and has largely been using these to aid in bookmaking. She says, “Over the last few years, I have become much more tech-savvy. Making photo books is something I have wanted to do since I was a teenager. The fact that I can now make them myself, due to the flourishing of book-making sites online, has been a thrill and a true joy.” The artist is looking forward to continuing her discovery of creative tech, and to its application in the preparation and presentation of her art. She has never felt any great impetus to express meaning within her practice, and it is likely her collage work will remain as it is: visually enthralling to an almost disorienting degree, and largely content to allow audiences to form their own connections with it. In the meantime, Wasserman is planning out a new project as a sculpture artist and has recently concluded her solo show Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing? At Gallery 110 in Seattle, Washington. Regardless of what the future may hold for the artist and her multifaceted practice, one thing is for certain: In her own words, “I will continue to make art every day.”

The artist will be featured in an upcoming group show, presented by Artma, from September 9 to December 21 at Yuan Ru Art Center, Bellevue.

What do you think?

About Author


see more articles

make your fridays matter

This site uses cookies to offer you an improved and personalised experience. If you continue to browse, we will assume your consent for the same.