Since 1997, Michelle Reader has been working to make recycled materials into sculptures, often incorporating mechanical elements such as the working parts of toys and clocks. Her materials come from city dumps, roadsides, and thrift shops, and include both household and industrial waste. “I love the unpredictability of found materials and enjoy the inventiveness necessary to transform them into a sculpture,“ she says. “I try wherever possible to use materials that are reclaimed, things with a history that have been discarded and might otherwise end up in landfill.“
Perhaps her most famous work is this family portrait, known as “Seven Wasted Men,“ that was made from one month of household waste from the family. “The materials not only highlight a need to address the amount of waste each of us produces, but also tells the story of each individual through the things they discard“”a child“™s drawings, a shopping list, a birthday card,“ she says. via Jill Harness/mental_floss
Last Friday, Olympia Dumpster Divers attended the Percival Landing sculpture exhibit kick off party here in Olympia, WA. It was a lovely little reception at the Harbor House, where chips and dips and non-alcoholic beverages were served and ballots passed out for the People’s Choice 2014 Percival Plinth Project.
Several of the thirteen pieces on display are made from recycled materials: Bil Fleming‘s “Basin of Quenched Fire” is a reclaimed sea buoy mounted on a tractor cog; in one of its previous reincarnations, it also served as a backyard fire pan. Don Freas made “OPENING (Ring Dance #9)” out of a scrap length of heavy channel iron, some three inch and six inch pipe, a salvaged sprinkler pipe, and a cast-iron table base. John Vanek used repurposed metal for “Dignity in Labor.”
But our vote for best sculpture (made out of recycled materials, of course) is Steve Jensen‘s “Viking Bot.” We admire the elegant simplicity of repurposing railroad spikes (found by our mutual friend/fellow upcycle artist Russ Morgan while walking the tracks) into a vessel full of symbolism. Steve, a Seattle native, comes from a long line of Norwegian fishermen and boat builders. The image of the boat is meant to symbolize a voyage to the other side, or the journey into the unknown:
My best friend Sylvain did a drawing of a boat. When he gave it to me, he asked if I would make a carved boat for his ashes when he passed. He died a month later and I carved a boat as close to Sylvain“™s drawing as possible. My mother came to Sylvain“™s funeral and was so moved by the boat I had made for Sylvain that she wanted my father“™s remains placed in a similar vessel when he passed. Since he was a Norwegian fisherman and boat builder, we buried the boat at sea, like a Viking funeral. Two years later when she passed, I created a boat for her and buried it at sea with my father. The day before John, my partner of twenty years, passed, he asked me to make a boat for his ashes. His wish was to be buried at sea with my parents. In the course of eight years I had tragically lost and buried everyone close to me.
Since that time I have created funeral boats for friends, family and pets. Art school never prepared me to work with human or animal ashes, but I feel honored to be asked and to have this opportunity. When I work with them, I feel transformed to another time or another place, an artist who has been asked to be both craftsman and mortician.
I began the Voyager Series to help me deal with my own grief and loss, and with hope to provide relief for others dealing with their own sorrow. I made this work as personal as possible because death is such a sensitive subject for many people. I felt that by exposing myself and my family, the viewers of this work might feel more at ease. Hopefully, for those who may be dealing with their own personal grief and loss, perhaps solace and insight can be found in this series.
I created the boats in this series approximately the same size as the actual boats used for burial. Carved in wood, painted, or sculpted, this work is a direct result of these experiences. Death is the one final thing we all have in common. The universal image of a boat in many cultures and civilizations symbolizes a voyage, perhaps the voyage to the “other side“, or the journey into the unknown.
Second-hand Sid and Ruby Re-Usable finally figured out wherethese sculptures are (hint: they are in Tumwater, not Olympia).
Guerrilla Man writes that the sculptures underneath I-5 are “a revision and repurposing of the sculptural elements of a previous project.” As far as we can tell, these figures have been there since September 2013. The installations in the woods seem to have started around that time, too, using materials that were found on the site (plus some extra wire and nails). Inspired by graffiti, Guerrilla Man’s unsanctioned art is worth searching for. The experience of finding art in unusual/hidden/unauthorized places is part of the excitement of this kind of work. See more pics HERE
Ruby Re-Usable made a pilgrimage back to her home state this summer, and while she did not get to check out all of the weird, wonderful, artsy and trashy sites of New Jersey, she did get to briefly visit the Jersey Shore, specifically, the Asbury Park area, where she was impressed by the art from salvaged materials of Roddy Wildeman.
Roddy owns and manages Torche’ Galerie in Belmar, NJ. For the past 15 years, he has also worked as a carpenter, renovating homes and reusing salvaged wood for his starburst assemblages:
During the renovation process I watched as building debris and other materials piled up to be discarded. I began to feel mixed emotions as I thought about the history associated with these items.
I decided to ask the residents if I could salvage this material-building debris, metal and furniture. I began to repurpose and use it to make art. Although I“™m not formally trained as an artist, I worked under master carpenters and absorbed their craft. There is something about knowing these items have been cherished that inspires me. I feel an intimate connection working with materials knowing they have passed through the hands of others. They have sentimental value, because they have been part of homes and the families that lived, loved and died there.
Roddy Wildeman’s work took on a greater poignancy when he started using debris from the boardwalks demolished by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The artwork has become a way to memorialize the shore communities. Pieces include debris from a number of shore towns, including Ocean Grove“™s fishing pier and Long Branch.
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
Marita Dingus and Ruby Re-Usable worked with all of the 7th graders at McClure Middle School in Seattle for 3 days (5/15 – 5/17/2013) to create “mavericks” (the school mascot) out of discarded plastic stuff which they attached with telephone wire to a black plastic mesh that was purchased at the RE Store. There were 5 classes (about 130 students total), so 5 horses were created for display in the main entry way. The installation should happen in June, so stayed tuned. Some pics from the project HERE
We were interviewed for the school newspaper, and one of the students asked us how did we meet; so we told him how back in 1986 we were both in a juried craft show at the (old) Tacoma Art Museum, and were really impressed by the other’s work. It was Marita who turned Ruby on to the joys of using a glue gun! And it was during a brainstorming session in Ruby’s living room, with Marita wondering what to do with a bunch of fabric and telephone wire, that the “snake” project was born, which became the basis for the “animals” and “little people” projects. Watch a vid of Marita demonstrating How to Make Little People with Marita Dingus on Vimeo
Artists use a myriad of materials from a variety of sources, including, of course, dumpsters. Check out this booklet by Ries Niemi, which he made for the Chamber Music exhibit at the Frye Art Museum:
… the book is actually not all about dumpsters- its a series of stories about my first show, at Rosco Louie, and sort of my art in general in about 1978. So really only those first two pages are specifically about dumpsters, although dumpster materials are mentioned from time to time. Ries Niemi
Ries Niemi’s booklet, I Might Have Been There, is available HERE
We also are intrigued by his Giant Blue Dress:
Giant Blue Dress is 12 feet tall, made from recycled blue tarp woven over a steel armature, it fills the gallery reaching from wall to wall, and up to the ceiling. It hovers above the floor, floating in space. Its a structure, a wearable yurt. Its a goddess monument. Its a reflection on the influence that the book The Tin Drum, by Gunter Grass, had on me as a teenager. I built it full scale, then cut it into pieces small enough to fit through the standard 3 foot wide door of the gallery, and sewed it back together inside. Ries Niemi
One of the recycled materials that we don’t post about very often is food/food scraps. According to American Wasteland author Jonathan Bloom, Americans waste more than 40 percent of the food we produce for consumption. Composting is one way to “recycle” food waste, but what about reusing scraps like grapefruit and cantaloupe peels:
Northwest Designer Craftsman Jan Hopkins‘ sculptural tea pot, Oh Eleanor, made from grapefruit peel, cantaloupe peel, ginkgo leaves, ostrich shell beads, cedar bark, and waxed linen, was voted the Bellevue Arts Museum Biennial 2012 Samuel and Patricia Smith People’s Choice Award winner.
Perhaps one of the most dynamic artists working today, Jan Hopkins is a master at creating sculptural baskets from unusual natural materials. She uses citrus peel, lotus pods, black bamboo, and silver dollar seed pods while simultaneously incorporating traditional basket materials like agave leaves and cedar bark. Each piece is a marriage of deep sensitivity and reverence to materials with heavy emphasis on innovation. Jan began studying basketry with traditional makers, learning the art of meticulous construction and the basics of how to gather and prepare materials. Many of her works contain small pieces that are puzzled together creating elements of amazement and surprise.
“I try to create baskets that preserve the beauty of the materials and create a renewal or continuance to the cycle of life.” via Jane Sauer Gallery
Khalil Chishtee is a Pakistani artist that uses trash bags to form and mold life. The sculpture“™s poses of emotions release and brings out a connecting value that together allows our souls to whisper. He“™s currently residing in California and received his education through Sacramento State. “Artworks needn“™t always portray beauty.“ -Khalil Chishtee. via Empty Kingdom