Transformed: Objects Reimagined by American Artists

September 12, 2021-January 21, 2024

"Take an object
Do something to it
Do something else to it"


Jasper Johns, 1964  

Inspired by the note Jasper Johns wrote to himself in his sketchbook in 1964, this exhibition features more than 60 artworks from 1829 to the present in which artists take objects as their points of departure, transforming them to reflect their varied cultural backgrounds and viewpoints. This exhibition is organized thematically—as indicated on each object label—to represent these diverse perspectives. 

Over time, this exhibition will itself transform with rotations of works that expand further upon various themes, including still lifes, alphabet letters as objects, urban and industrial motifs, found objects, collages, and constructions, as well as dolls and mannequins.

Still lifes can reveal distinct moments in history through realist approaches to objects. Artists’ transformations of objects into abstracted forms can be seen in modern still life paintings, as well as in depictions of urban and industrial motifs from the early twentieth century onwards. 

Many artists employ everyday, mass-produced objects, as well as unique items they find, to create assemblages, constructions, and collages. These transformations can open dialogues about aesthetic, conceptual, handmade, and machine-produced aspects of contemporary art and life.  

This exhibition also addresses transformations of natural and synthetic materials into dolls and mannequins as explorations of personhood and representations of identity. Furthermore, it explores objects that are reimagined and invested by artists with personally defined metaphorical powers. Somewhat like a talisman, these works can reference the symbolic capacity of objects to inspire, protect, or heal.  

Indeed, all objects and things can be transformed by artists with multiple and symbolic meanings beyond their appearances, just as engaging with art can transform the experience of the viewer.

Transformed: Objects Reimagined by American Artists is curated by Gail Stavitsky, Chief Curator. Editorial assistance and the writing of some label copy was provided by Laura Allen, Curator of Native American Art and Molly Ono, Curatorial Assistant. 


In June 2023, MAM’s Curatorial team installed a recent acquisition, NDN-opoly™ (2019), in this exhibition. This Indigenized version of the popular Monopoly board game was created by Ashley Browning and Michele Tapia Browning (b. 1992 and 1960, P’o-suwae-geh Ówîngeh [Pojoaque Pueblo] and Kha’po Ówîngeh [Santa Clara Pueblo]). To amplify its hand-carved playing pieces—which depict a Pueblo wedding vase, Pueblo moccasins, an Eastern Woodlands canoe, and more—the installation also features outstanding historical examples of these objects that highlight perspectives from contemporary Native makers. 

We sincerely thank Jennifer Ley and Kit Skarstrom for donating and loaning key works, Ashley Browning and Michele Tapia Browning, Jason Pardilla for his contribution on Penobscot canoes, and Tyler Heneghan and Mark McGoey for label writing for this installation.


Nicholas Galanin's artwork I Think It Goes Like This (Gold) is on display in Transformed through the end of February 2023. In November 2022, Galanin joined MAM in a virtual conversation about his practice and process. During the talk, the artist, the audience, and MAM registrars worked together to remix the pieces from their initial configuration. Watch the sculpture transform in this video with Galanin’s commentary.

All MAM programs are made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, The Vance Wall Foundation, Partners for Health Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and Museum members.