As our financial markets continue to meltdown and our currency is in flux (I recently found myself staring blankly at a $14 Whopper at the Zurich International Airport),  Mark Wagner seems to be having the time of his life.

Wagner, a collage artist, has been busy cutting up thousands of U.S. one dollar bills and reshuffling the pieces into fantastic works of art.   The meticulousness of these collages is awe-inspiring.   Just one look and you can see what I am talking about.  Here’s Riddle of the Sphinx:  Click for a high resolution scan.

In one of my personal favorites, Marxism, Wagner scrambles the portrait of George Washington into a portrait of Groucho Marx, a clever reduction of our founding father to the father of Duck Soup.

In Bout,  George Washington is seen in a boxing ring fighting a shadow of himself, which is skillfully constructed by using the shaded parts of a dollar bill.   It’s a fantastic piece, and I’m sure it’s hanging in some investment banker’s living room right now.  Click for a high resolution scan.

I love thinking of Mark Wagner sitting in his studio, destroying money like a shredding factory.  Just the artist, thousands of dollar bills, and a few X-Acto knives.

It reminds me of that guy who discovered that pennies made before 1982 were 95% copper (as opposed to today’s which are 97.5% zinc), so he melted them down and sold the copper and made a fortune.* Of course, the government caught up with him, but there’s something similar going on here.  Our money is worthless -  more so every day – so Wagner cuts it up and turns it into art that sells for $20,000 a piece.  I love it.

Detail, Waiting to Close the Deal

*More on the bizarre worthlessness of our currency: Penny Dreadful from The New Yorker.

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