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.
Well, the year of sewing projects is off to a slow start; here it is, the end of January, and the only project that I have completed is a small quilted box, made from fabric scraps that I dyed and printed back when I was an art student thirty years ago. It is pictured here on the left, along with the Singer 212 “Featherweight” sewing machine that it was made on. Do you see that cute little “Project Runway” pincushion in the foreground? Our friend Tossa deTrash gave it to me a few years ago, and I thought it was adorable then but now I find it extra fabulous because I finally appreciated that it is a vintage Singer sewing machine (66 or 99 or ??).
So I have reusing, rediscovering, and vintage sewing machines on my mind:
Jennifer Collier explores the ‘remaking’ of household objects by stitching found and recycled papers. Welcome to her fantastical world, where every exquisite detail is made, folded and manipulated from paper. Once books, maps, envelopes, wallpaper or scrap, the paper is transformed into textural forms. Like cloth it is stitched to construct two or three dimensional objects, decorative and functional: lampshades, cameras, tools and furniture.
In dissecting and rebuilding 1865 to 1950 Singer and other-vintage-brands Sewing Machines made of embellished cast iron or colorful metal pieces, Nado pays homage to feminism in the working class. Seamstresses convey a sense of nostalgia woven in our common collective history.
Martin Messier doesn’t sew : he resuscitates old Singers put asleep years ago in order to release, in some magical ways, the luminous and sonorous presence of the past. He carries his public in a dreamlike universe where each machine, as singular subject, is magnified. After years of silence, Sewing Machine Orchestra is giving speech to these surviving objects of the industrial era. (video HERE)
Who knew vintage sewing machines could inspire such diverse works of art?!
There are two excellent group exhibits here in the Pacific Northwest that showcase art from recycled materials, and both are ending soon:
Saving the Environment: Sustainable Art exhibit at the Schack Art Center in Everett (April 23 – May 30, 2015) is an ambitious group show that spans a wide range of ways that artists work with recycled materials.
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
So as this is an end-of-the-year post, we thought we would reflect on this past year while looking forward to the next. For me, Ruby Re-Usable, the thing that stands out the most is Trash Fashion. I am eagerly anticipating the Schack Art Center‘s Saving the Environment: Sustainable Art exhibit, which will be up April 23 – May 30; their Trash Fashion Show date is still TBA. Back in November, I had the honor of being the main presenter for the Schack Art Center’s teachers’ workshop, where I spoke about artists in Washington State who specialize in recycled materials. I also taught hands-on workshops on recycled art dolls and Trash Fashion; the latter was particularly successful in generating inspiration for everyone, including moi (one of the reasons I enjoy teaching is that I get some great ideas on how to reuse materials from my students, both young and old alike).
Here are some Trash Fashion links to check out for future reference: Trashion Fashion Show promotes environmental awareness through art in Harford, Ct, Washington, DC, and New York City. Trash-Fashions promotes recycling and reusing through art, design, performance, installation and education.Port Townsend Wearable Art is a yearly wearable art fundraiser and competition happening since 2011 in Port Townsend, WA. Inspired by the success of the Upcycle Style show, Tinkertopia presented an Upcycled Trash Fashion Show in the Old Post Office in Tacoma, WA. Haute Trash creates fashion out of trash for entertainment, education, and empowerment. Nancy Judd of Recycle Runway uses trash fashion to stimulate conversation, action, and education about sustainable living.
The only Trash Fashion show I participated in this past year was Upcycle Style, the show I co-organized with Ms Darcy Anderson back in September; it was a fabulous show and quite the learning experience for us both. Not only did I get to work with some talented designers and models while creating some new trashtastic ensembles, but I had some epiphanies as well (are you allowed to have more than one epiphany at a time?). I realized that there is a lot more that goes into producing a Trash Fashion show than I previously thought (notes to self: need a stage manager along with the usual crew, dedicate more time to working with models on their routines, and renewed respect to Rayona Visqueen of Haute Trash), AND I rediscovered a passion for making jewelry from recycled materials.
The jewelry happened because I needed to accessorize Princess Trashie’s plastic six-pack rings dress. In my design process, I prefer to use a minimal variety of stuff, keeping the materials related to the overall theme of the outfit. In this case, I needed a pop of color to offset all the icy silver mylar and pale white six-pack rings. Since I already had a little silver soda tab bag for Trashie to carry (a gift from a friend, we don’t know who made it), and since soda tabs were part of the cans that were previously in the six-pack rings, soda tabs were the perfect material to continue the motif. It helped that I had a collection of tabs from my sons: electric blue ones from the Blue Sky soda they drink, and silver ones from various sources, including their 5th grade teacher, who gave me his lifetime collection when he retired (why he was collecting them and where he got so many is a different story for a different time). A trip to the crafts store for jump rings and voila! A necklace, earrings, and a bracelet were created, and an Etsy shop was reborn.
I liked the jewelry that I made for Trashie so much, I made a set for myself, only I varied the design slightly. Soon I went searching for more tabs of different colors, discovering along the way that not only do they vary in color, but soda tabs also come in different shapes and sizes. I had purchased my first piece of soda tab jewelry from Maddie the Mad Rad Recycler, who was a middle schooler at the time. She is now in high school and no longer in the soda tab jewelry biz, so she gave me her collection of mostly energy drink tabs (along with some beer tabs from an uncle who worked in a bar). Did I mention that I have two cats who eat two cans of cat food a day? The pull tabs from those cans soon became incorporated into necklaces as well. My friends have rallied to save me their drink tabs, but I am always on the look out for more. You can see (and buy) my soda tab jewelry on RubyReUsable.etsy.com
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
The Diva of the Olympia Dumpster Divers, Ruby Re-Usable,and Darcy Anderson (Team Tinkertopia in Tacoma) presented a trash fashion show on 9/13/14, as part of the Valley Ballyhoo Performing Arts Show in Fife, WA. This was a first time collaboration between Ms Re-Usable and Ms Darcy, but as Ruby (and Jacqueline Susann) likes to say, “Once Is Not Enough,” so we look forward to more of these events in the South Puget Sound region (and beyond) in the future!
Ruby was introduced to Trash Fashion through Robin Worley/Rayona Visqueen of Haute Trash; she has since participated as a designer in trash fashion shows such as Trash Fashion Futures, Icicle Arts Trash to Fash Runway & Awards Show, Trashion at the Indiana Welcome Center, and the Seattle RE Store’s 10th Trash Fashion Show, among others. She really wanted to work with Ms Darcy after seeing her as a “Daffodil Princess” in the window of Tinkertopia (where she is co-proprietress), so when the Fife Arts Commission asked Ruby to participate in the Valley Ballyhoo, she invited Darcy to join her, and a Trashionista was born! Darcy got her talented Tacoma friends to work with her on Team Tinkertopia, thus inspiring even more creative folks to discover their inner trashion designer.
Trash Fashion is meant to be an “edutainment” event, combining information about recycling and other environmental issues with art and humor to create a show that is both entertaining and educational. We also aim to be inclusive and body-positive, utilizing our friends and local volunteers as models. The Upcycle Style show in Fife was no exception: our models ranged in age from elementary school to fifty-something, and we wowed the crowd with some of our classic trash fashions, along with some exciting new creations. This show was also a learning experience for Ruby … like, how the show must go on, even if the microphone and pedestal disappear right before you go on stage (yes, this happened), along with other stuff (don’t ask). We regret that we did not have any professional photographers to document this show, but we do have some pics on Flickr HERE and a cell phone vid posted on YouTube HERE
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.
Well, the weather for the Spring Olympia Arts Walk weekend was cold and damp mixed with rain and a little hail and then some rainbows, the usual Northwest fickle spring … not very conducive for wandering around admiring art. However, since we did promise to follow up on our Earth Day Arts Walk preview, Ruby pulled on some rubber boots and managed to leave Cast Off Art Lab long enough to take a few pictures of art from recycled materials on display:
We were delighted to see this installation in person and to meet Carrie and Jennifer. Carrie even purchased one of Ruby’s repurposed pink plastic bag flower fascinators! The installation will be up at the Washington Center for awhile (not sure how long).
Next we went to Capitol Florist, where proprietor Cynthia Salazar collaborated with Joe Batt to create large nests made from natural materials and found trash:
There were also artists and craftspeople set up on the streets. We ran into Jeanne McCarthy, who makes funky jewelry from thrift store finds, and a couple who makes birdhouses out of salvaged barn boards. At Matter Gallery, the entire place is always filled with art from green/sustainable/recycled materials; we especially admired this canine visitor wearing doggie trash fashion:
Ruby did not take to the streets with her shopping cart full of colorful heads wearing colorful repurposed plastic bag flower fascinators; instead, she hung out at the Capitol Theater Building studios with Three Bad Seeds, Steven Suski, and Arrington de Dionyso. See more pics HERE
ps it was too rainy for Ruby to take any pics of the parade: view it on YouTube
Happy Oly Arts Walk! Olympia Arts Walk brings out the creativity in our citizens, and every year more folks are working with trash/recycled materials to make amazing art. Here is a preview:
Thurston County solid waste educator Carrie Ziegler and environmental health educator Jennifer Johnson worked with more than 700 students to create “Rise Above Plastics: The Butterfly Effect,” an installation made from reused juice pouches, which is on display in the lobby of The Washington Center for the Performing Arts. (#81 on the Arts Walk map) More info HERE
Jennifer Kuhns will once again have her mosaics made from salvaged stain glass and other materials in the window of Hot Toddy (#95 on Arts Walk map).
The Olympia Timberland Regional Library has Peeps Art Dioramas, Lincoln Elementary School youth art, and recycled materials sculptures made by youths with Tinkertopia (#70 on Arts Walk map).
Ruby’s studio mate, Amanda Weiss of Three Bad Seeds, transforms old wool sweaters and blankets into not-quite-toys-but-not-quite-traditional pillows (#107 on Arts Walk map).
Matter Gallery always has art from green/sustainable/recycled materials on display (#109 on the Arts Walk map), plus daily comic strips by Chelsea Baker (who utilized cardboard packaging to mount her strips)
And of course, Ruby Re-Usable will also be around for Arts Walk, either at the studio (416 Washington St SE, which is #107 on the Arts Walk map) or, weather permitting, wandering the streets with her shopping cart full of fabulous repurposed plastic bag flower fascinators for sale.