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Linda Popp Shares her Narrative Found Object Assemblage Sculpture

By Linda Popp, guest blogger

Are You Open To Your Bliss?

I create narrative found object assemblage sculptures. This body of work began almost 20 years ago from my prototype for a high school art lesson, a National Art Education Association Conference presentation, and a School Arts article.

When I went to the NAEA Conference in 2002 and attended a presentation by Barry Shauck titled “Artful Collaboration” my life changed. The presentation was about a series that Barry was writing for School Arts Magazine featuring an artist working in a school, using their work to inspire the students. I knew this was how I could “pay” Ed Smith for sharing his narrative pendulum clocks with my Art II class at Towson High. If he would come and share his process with my class, I would write the article for the national publication that featured his work and statement in addition to several students’ works and statements. By the way, Barry’s first article in April, 2002, was about Schroeder Cherry, who was just featured in a MAEA blog post. My article was featured in School Arts, April, 2005, “Narrative Clock Sculptures.”

Click on the slider above to see more work. List of works at the end of blog

The artful problem I developed was: use found objects to create a three dimensional “portrait” of a person that you have had a long-term relationship with. The sculpture was also a functional pendulum clock. The students were working on very detailed realistic self-portraits at the time, and I wanted them to discover they could capture a person in a very different way. I also didn’t want them just going to their junk drawer and emptying it out. I made my prototype about my mother and was immediately hooked on the process for myself as an artist. I was also thrilled with the students’ authentic and exquisite solutions to the problem. We would often be in tears during the presentations.

We began around the holidays so they could possibly interview the person that was their subject and/or other family members. They used an “Idea Matrix” to brainstorm ideas for artifacts or metaphorical objects to communicate stories. As they were working on 2D portraits and self-portraits, Monday was “Clock Day.” My thinking was that as they explored the narrative, they could continue to gather artifacts over the weekend and remember to bring them to school. The studio became filled with all sorts of tools, materials, and supplies. At the high school level, we were concerned with the archival quality of the work, so power tools and strong adhesives were required. An added bonus was our “Help List.” If you had an idea for an object, but couldn’t find it you wrote it on the list. This really helped to create a very supportive community of artists. One student actually found accordion keys for the work I made about my father. I recently saw a former student and he told me that his father still has his clock hanging in his office.

I think we all realized that the work went beyond a “portrait” but was really the story of our relationship with a special person. I know when I created a piece about my uncle, the patriarch of our family, it totally changed our relationship. He knew it was my way to honor him and show my love and that now his stories would never be forgotten. When he passed away, he left me boxes of tchotchkes to show his appreciation of my work. His Great-Great Nephew now treasures this sculpture.

My Hands Come From Adele

I have continued to work with found objects since then. I use artifacts and symbolic objects to convey stories about relationships with family, place, love, faith, nature, and self. I have gone beyond those early “portraits” to work in a number of series. During the process, I often go beyond my personal stories and the narrative becomes more universal. Some objects/symbols are fairly obvious; viewers may interpret others differently as they bring their own experiences to the work. I enjoy the idea that something from my story may cause others to reflect on their own experiences. You can see my work at

I have taught assemblage workshops to art teachers and have given artist talks to art students. Recently I had a wonderful teacher moment with a 7th grade artist at Middle River Middle School. He was working on a sculpture about his Grandmother, Adele, and I was able to share my piece about my Grandmother, Adele. We made a very special connection.

I have always felt that my art-making informed my teaching, and my teaching informed my art-making.

List of work

Top Image

Are You Open To Your Bliss?

Relationship with Nature Series

9 x 9 x 1.5

Gallery of Images Left to Right

Hear The Song Within The Silence

Relationship with Nature Series

20 x 8 x 2

Little Boy Blue And The Man In The Moon

Relationship with Family Series

14 x 15 x5

I Need Four Walls Around Me, #11

Relationship with Place Series

22 x 16 x 4

As I Stand Before The Setting Sun

Relationship with Self Series

37 x 8 x 4.5

Bottom Image

My Hands Come From Adele

Relationship with Family Series

28 x 19 x 5

For more about Linda Popp, check out page 3 of the July 2020 RAEA E-Bulletin (NAEA's Retired Art Educators Affiliate)

Linda Popp is a Baltimore artist, art educator, and NAEA Distinguished Fellow. She retired after a 41- year career with Baltimore County Public Schools, and is currently supervising art education student teachers at Towson University. As a member of MAEA since 1989 she has led our organization in a variety of roles including President. The Linda Popp Leadership Award was created in her name. We greatly appreciate the time and care she has taken in writing this post for us.


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