Mark Wagner’s collages make for a bold statement, largely because of the materials from which they are compiled. Using US dollars exclusively as his medium, Wagner recreates presidential portraits and famous paintings, as well as unique collages. Rather than plain paper, the cut-up banknotes provide a unique material that calls to mind man’s obsession with finance and his wistful attempts to tame it through economics.
“I’d been doing collage out of a whole bunch of different materials, and initially, I wanted a piece of paper that was just super common — something that everyone could recognize,” explained the New York-based artist in an interview with Kai Ryssdal. “There’s a power behind taking something that’s familiar to everyone and making it into something completely new.”
“Any time I see my stuff referred to online, there’s always, like, a roll call of nannies and hall monitors complaining about it being illegal,” added Wagner. Indeed, the law clearly states that you can’t destroy American currency. “When people ask me that, I like to say, ‘Should it be illegal?’” he says.
Collected by dozens of institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, the US Federal Reserve Board, and the Smithsonian Institution, Wagner’s work isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Take a look for yourself.