If you see a woman walking along and occasionally swooping down to pick up a shiny metal object, a sparkling gem, an interesting shaped piece of plastic, or a textured card or paper, it could be me,” says Harriet Serenkin, a native New Yorker working full time as an artist since retiring as a freelance technical writer.
Her favored medium is collage and assemblage, much of it made with paper and magazine cuttings combined with found objects. Serenkin’s simple paper collages are a nod to the father of modern collage, George Braque, in his more colorful period between the world wars. She prefers Kurt Schwitters. However, her inspirational artist is Joseph Cornell and it is easy to see his impact on her work. Many of her works are similarly set inside boxes. Cornell assembled items within a theme in his boxes, however Serenkin’s works are more than themes – they are full blown stories.
She doesn’t set out to necessarily tell a story. She might start with a theme and some specific pieces that she wants to use for a new project, however what transpires she says is “serendipitous.” She prefers to allow “her gut, her unconscious” to drive her creativity. Some of her more recent work involves computers and machine parts. Taking these components, she up-cycles them into new, unique creations. They evoke a whisper of the Russian Constructivism movement of the early 20th Century.
At first glance Serenkin’s work can easily be described as whimsical, but on further inspection there is a depth to her imagery that indicates a more complicated dynamic at work. There is mystery in many of her pieces and depending on the mood of the viewer, the impact could be quite varied. She says she creates her work for “happiness” and to relieve stress” which perhaps suggests an understanding that life is not always a bed of roses.
This understanding may be explained by the other part of Serenkin’s life, where she spends time working with her dog to provide pet therapy to reduce the stress of others at the Lighthouse Guild for the Blind and the Juilliard School. She also runs courses at a non-profit called Gifted Hands that helps participants build self-esteem and learn new skills. Her course on collage and mixed media art emphasizes “No rules, no mistakes, just fun.”
Serenkin’s “Village: City Dancing” was chosen by Ed McCormack as the winner of the Inaugural Gallery&Studio Arts Journal, Visual Arts Competition, as the best artwork fitting the competition theme of “Celebration.” The three- dimensional boxed collage shows a couple in a dynamic pose, exuberantly dancing in a city street. Intriguingly there appears to be a shadowy figure behind them, perhaps watching benevolently, curiously or otherwise. It is up to the viewer to decide.
Harriet Serenkin – harrietserenkin.com