Olympia Dumpster Divers blog was originally started in July 2006 as a way to document Ruby Re-Usable’s HERE TODAY temporary art installation, although lately it seems like all Marita Dingus all the time, but I am sure you don’t mind, because Marita is so inspiring in the fearless way she recombines a myriad of recycled materials to create figures that resonate with cultural, historical, political and environmental issues. So this month, we will be posting about Marita once again.
Marita Dingus’ show “The Gathering” is at Traver Gallery, March 2- April 1, 2017 (more pics HEREand HERE).
“In her mixed media figurative sculptures, Dingus, to communicate her narratives, uses almost exclusively, recovered and found material as the medium for her sculptures, creating harmonious results from shattered pieces and discarded materials.
In her exhibition, Marita Dingus commemorates how humans continue to call upon the spirit world for help and guidance in conducting their affairs, especially in times of elevated threat and uncertainty. This show is inspired by Marita’s love of the nkondi sculptures of the Kongo people, which were used as spiritual enforcers of conflict resolutions. The Gathering represents the duality of people seeking spiritual support outside themselves when in fact the spiritual strength comes from within. Gathering is also a process of passing along to the next generation the skill to draw upon our inner strengths.” via Traver Gallery
This past Saturday Marita invited me to hang out with her and Lynn Di Nino at their wearable art sale at Dan Fear’s art studio in Tacoma, so I brought along my Singer 201k hand crank sewing machine for Marita to try out — she has several electric Singer 201 sewing machines and was skeptical about hand cranks, but was so impressed by the smoothness of the crank, the well-designed case, the portability and the practicality of it (when the power goes out, as it tends to do here in our part of the Pacific Northwest, a hand crank &/or a treadle is a useful sewing machine to have) — she totally fell in love with it and wants one now!
ps Marita introduced me to the glue gun back in 1986; more recently she is one of the people who has sparked my passion for vintage sewing machines.
So I have fallen deeper down the rabbit-hole of vintage sewing machines: not only admiring the way these machines sew and were built to LAST (no planned obsolescence for these machines — there are antique & vintage sewing machines that are still being used to sew, 100 years later, AND you can still get parts for them), plus how cool they look, but also being intrigued by images created about vintage sewing machines.
While spending countless hours viewing photos and videos of vintage sewing machines, I came across the wonderful work of Danny Mansmith, who not only sews his own clothing, but uses a retro sewing machine to construct figures out of found objects and fabric scraps, creating joyful installations that make him happy. His motto is “Be Brave — Don’t Follow — Make Yourself Happy,” and I am sew so happy to have found him!
Marita Dingus‘ latest art exhibit, The Girls, is at Traver Gallery until March 28. Marita continues her fearless exploration of recycled materials in this fierce display of female figures of the African Diaspora that range in size from 6 1/2 inches to 6 1/2 feet tall.
It is always intriguing to discover what discards she has incorporated into her pieces, especially when she points out “look what I did with those green plastic things you gave me,” because I, along with most of her friends and fans, contribute to her collection of interesting junk supplies. In this case, the Olympia Library had given me a big box of empty spools from receipt paper; after ten years, I finally decided that I wasn’t going to use them in my work and passed them on to Marita, who always seems to find something to do with the stuff everyone else wants to throw away.
More pics of The Girls — Marita Dingus art exhibit at Traver Gallery HEREandHEREandHERE
We went up to Seattle the other week with our friend and idol, the Queen of the recycled art scene, Marita Dingus, to see her latest exhibit at the Northwest African American Museum. The exhibition, entitled Marita Dingus: At Home, includes the baskets, quilts, and dolls made from a myriad of recycled materials that were once formerly shown at Francine Seders Gallery, with photos by Spike Mafford of how these objects look in Marita’s home studio, where they are casually combined with her doll collection, outside in her goat pen, or being utilized to hold art supplies. The show is up until May 26, 2014. More Marita Dingus HEREand HERE and HERE, more pics of this show HERE
Remember back in May when we posted about the mavericks made from recycled materials that the McClure Middle School 7th graders created with Marita Dingus and Ruby Re-Usable? We promised an update when they were installed. Well … it never happened. The finished art work, the artists’ examples and some leftover materials, were all stored in a school portable over the summer, along with surplus computer equipment and other junk. Right before the installation was slated to occur, the unthinkable happened: the rush to transform the portable into a classroom to accommodate the increased enrollment led to the accidental disposal of our horses. Gone. Trashed. While we are disappointed about this unfortunate incident (we were devastated for a while, which is why it took us almost 3 months to post this), we will continue to Make Art, Not Waste! Only now we will be more careful in how it is stored and displayed.
Marita Dingus has not only been busy making art, not waste, she has had 2 exhibitions of her work in Seattle this fall:
At the Northwest African American Museum, you can see Marita Dingus: Fashion Free-For-All (8/17/13 – 1/5/14) in the PACCAR Gallery, and Buddha as an African Enslaved (10/12/13 – 1/12/14) in the Northwest Gallery (more pics HERE).
The soon-to-be-retired Francine Seders Gallery had a 4 person show this past month (it closes today), with Jacqueline Barnett, Elizabeth Sandvig, Laura Thorne, and Marita Dingus. We went to the reception on November 10 and took a few pics (more HERE)
Ruby Re-Usable has been reusing plastic bags in her art work since 1999 (Wonder Bread bags since 2000). In 2004 she was commissioned by the City of Olympia to create a piece of art that would be used as the cover image for the spring Arts Walk map, and also become part of the city’s public art collection. Using shopping bags from local businesses, in combination with other stuff (including decorative plastic sushi “grass,” foil from sparkling apple cider bottles, plastic film canisters, pony beads, soda straws, thrift store Xmas garland, reused chenille stems, a gum wrapper chain, ribbon scraps, plastic bread tags, an empty plastic cap ring, and a pop top), Ruby created Springtide Dancers: three doll-like figures with plastic bottles and cardboard tubes for an armature, covered with old socks and dressed in those colorful plastic bags.
Fast forward 9 years later, when Ruby notices that the Wonder Bread bag pants of one of the figures have seriously faded and are also photodegrading. While Wonder Bread is no longer available, Ruby did have a small stash of Wonder Bread bags still available for the necessary repair work. More pics of the before and after work HERE
Maybe the City of Olympia will allow Ruby Re-Usable to include an informational tag on her piece about the dangers of plastic bags; or maybe she will just have to create a new piece of reused plastic bag art that has the information integrated into the art work!
Read more about the problems with plastic bags and how photodegradation creates smaller, more toxic petro-polymers HERE and HERE and HERE
ps Nine years later, we are happy to report that some of those shops are still in business AND have stopped using plastic shopping bags; the City of Olympia/Thurston County are considering banning plastic bags
April seems to be one of the busiest months for Olympia Dumpster Divers. We, of course, believe that every day is Earth Day, but it is still nice to have special events that celebrate reducing, reusing, recycling, et al. The Olympia Timberland Regional Library, in conjunction with Olympia Spring Arts Walk, is joining in on the celebration: art from recycled materials, created by students in workshops with Nora Walsh and Ruby Re-Usable, will be on display this weekend at the downtown Olympia library. Nora worked with younger students to sew sock kitties, and Ruby showed students in grades 4 – 12 how to make fantastical flora and fauna figurines out of plastic bottles and old socks and other junk. More pics HERE and HERE.
Ruby Re-Usable has reused Wonder Bread bags in her mixed recycled media dolls and sculptures since 2000, when her then ten year old son, who was raised on whole wheat and tofu, demanded red meat and white bread.
While her son no longer eats Wonder Bread, Ruby continued to create art with the bags when she could. Her Wonder Bread bag art has won awards and has been included in museum and gallery exhibits around the world (and is currently at Matter Gallery)
Alas, now Wonder Bread and its colorful bags will no longer be available. What will she do now, you wonder? Well, Ruby Re-Usable will continue to Make Art, Not Waste, of course!
View all of Ruby’s repurposed Wonder Bread bag artwork HERE
Sometimes we here at Olympia Dumpster Divers are suckers for the kitschy, arts & craftsy stuff, especially around Halloween. These skeletons made from reused plastic jugs are just that kind of fun holiday decoration that we get a kick out of, even though we personally have never made one, since we don’t use plastic jugs. But if you DO happen to have a bunch of plastic jugs (we won’t judge), you can see how to make them HERE and HERE (and/or watch a video about it HERE).
Of course, we are also fascinated by Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead skeletons. One year, Ruby made some Day-of-the-Dead-inspired figures with high school students, using white coat hanger wire, cardboard tubes, popsicle sticks, thrift store styrofoam skulls, cotton batting, and fabric scraps.
This year, she is teaching several workshops on how to make skeleton figurines out of cardboard (like the white cardboard that sometimes comes in clothing packages), chenille stems (purchased new at the craft store), fabric scraps, and other stuff (including those paper parasols that that you get in drinks). If you are in the Olympia area, check it out HERE (more pics HERE)