Intro to Boxed Assemblage Art

There is a basic human compulsion to collect, arrange and display objects and images.
Assemblage art is a cross-cultural, pan-historic phenomenon.

About this website

Since 2011, this website,, has been the place for my boxed assemblage art – Frank Turek’s Boxed Assemblage. In 2020 I created a new home for my artwork at and in doing so leaving this domain open for the possibility for speaking more broadly about boxed assemblage art.

Assemblage is a perennially overlooked art form and there is a need for an internet home to champion the medium. I will speak about my work as a touchstone and I also want to raise the important aesthetic and social questions related to assemblage and collage. I’ll try to be informative and report on what I’ve thought about and discovered over my career of making boxed assemblage.

A brief introduction to the medium of boxed assemblage.

For those just discovering this art form, you may already be familiar with the term shadowbox and or diorama as a term for describing this style. These terms, shadowbox, and diorama are in essence particular styles of boxed assemble which is why I prefer to boxed assemblage as a general definition of all styles under the umbrella of assemblage artwork.

A boxed assemblage in its basic definition is an arrangement of objects (things) and images (surfaces) within a construction of a contained space, most often in the form of a shallow box made to hang on a wall. The things contained in the box can vary widely from cultural artifacts to crafted sculptural pieces to fragments from the natural world. And these things are then arranged and manipulated within the allotted space in a way that the arrangement itself has some significance. This arrangement can be mere cataloging or it can creatively range from a narrative to abstract design.

In many ways, the assemblage artist is akin to stage or film director, where aesthetic choices are made regarding the ensemble of actors, scenery, settings, etc. The assemblage artist, as with a director, manipulates all of these elements in order to have them conjoin and interact within a set space with the effect of conveying a message, narrative, or thought. For instance one of the more common forms of utilitarian dioramas is when a set designer communicates their idea with a model of a stage set.

Boxed assemblage art appears in cultures around the globe and throughout history. From Mexican “Day of the Dead” scenes in small shoeboxes to extravagant Catholic reliquaries to Curiosity Cabinets of the European baroque period, this art form has always been around as folk art. The moves to bring this medium into the realm of modern art began with the early surrealist and Dada artists and not too long after, blossoming in the medium’s most well-known artistic representation in the works of Joseph Cornell.

My journey into this medium began around 1990 when having discovered Victorian-era optical devices and visual entertainment, such as zoetropes, dioramas, and peep shows. Around this time I also was studying the Berlin Dada artists and their use of collage as an aesthetic for social commentary. My goal, then as now, became to create thoughtful and complex set pieces of ideas where the elements play off of one another and in such a compact form that the viewer’s close up experience created an intimate space for absorbing the art.

~ Frank Turek, summer 2020.

First published as the home page to