Artist Mark Wagner uses a controversial, but very common, material to create his amazingly intricate collages. He slices up American currency, so his green-tinged collages are made completely out of one-dollar bills.
AT&T recently commissioned Wagner to create three new collages to promote the companies new, lower roaming rates, with the money symbolizing customers” savings with the plan. The collages feature American tourists using their phones to take pictures of famous landmarks across the globe (and they even feature cameo appearances by U.S. presidents).
In case you”re wondering, yes, this is legal. You can cut up and mess around with money all you want. You just can”t use it to make other currency (like melting down pennies to make Canadian coins, for example).
Artistic flights of fancy? Totally okay. If you don”t believe us, consider that his artwork is collected by the Library of Congress.
Wagner uses a razor sharp knife and a steady hand to slice bills up into tiny sections. He then arranges them to create the images you see here. The commissioned AT&T pieces have a more lighthearted vibe than his personal work, but all of his work is injected with an irreverent sense of humor. His other pieces explore themes of American identity, morality, and tradition, all of which are depicted in a surreal, green world.
Wagner says that because of what the dollar bill symbolizes to Americans–everything from success and the American dream to greed and corruption–people tend to have a strong reaction to his work, and often bring a lot of themselves into it. “Anarchists,” he says, “are certain I”m an anarchist because I cut up a favorite tool of the oppressor. Capitalists think I”m a capitalist because I revel in it.”
Wagner”s workshop contains carefully sorted and categorized pieces of bills.
Wagner”s aware that some people aren”t fans of destroying money, but he”s more interested in the meaning people place on money, and in turn, on art. When you think about it, paying for a piece of art made from money is, in effect, paying money for money. And the whole thing becomes a nonsensical, thought-provoking loop.
You can check out some detailed shots of Wagner”s work below, and we recommend watching the video, in which Wagner explains his artistic process and the concepts behind his work.
You can see more of Wagner”s intricate work on his website, and you can also keep up with his latest creations on Facebook and Instagram.