Money is Material: Artist Mark Wagner Turns the U.S. Dollar into Art

Mark Wagner (born 1976) is an American artist best known for meticulous collages made of United States banknotes, such as the portrait of Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben Bernanke, composed exclusively of one-dollar bills, in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery. Wagner’s work is represented by Pavel Zoubok Gallery in New York City. He is co-founder of The Booklyn Artist Alliance and has published over twenty artists’ books with Bird Brain Press and X-ing Books.

“The one dollar bill is the most ubiquitous piece of paper in America,” notes Mark Wagner, whose currency collages emerge from the question: What might be done to make it something else? Wagner reconfigures the familiar green-and-black-printed linen stock into humorous portraits, landscapes, and other scenes. George Washington, whose portrait graces the one dollar bill, figures prominently in many collages, chopping down his infamous cherry tree, strolling through a garden reading a newspaper, or snacking on a dollar bill. Others depict fantastical creatures and scenes, such as an island teeming with biomorphic vegetation that sits atop waves of dollar bills, or recreate iconic works like Grant Wood’s American Gothic (1930). In addition to showcasing the uncanny precision for which Wagner is known, the collages express poignant criticism of our addiction to money.

Courtesy: Mark Wagner