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.
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.
As guest curator/co-producer, Ruby Re-Usable had her hands full and therefore does not have many photos of her own (but lots of learning experiences/stories she could tell …). However, there were folks on hand to document this trashtastic event:
Monica Today posted this video of Six-pack Princess, designed by Ruby Re-Usable in true recycle/reuse style: it is a revised version of theoriginal Six-pack Princess that Trashie Cassie wore last year. The dress was created out of discarded blue packaging paper from ACT Theater, six-pack rings from various friends and family, and unused/unwanted mylar cookie packaging that was originally donated to the Museum of Glass art studio. The jewelry is made from cat food can pull rings and soda pop tops. Watch Lena Landfill, our spokesmodel for a greener world, sashay down the runway:
More short vids from Monica Today of the Upcycled Style Trash Fashion Show at the Schack Art Center HERE
Thank-you to all of the marvelous models: Robyn Lang, Leska Ratliff, Rosemary Jones, Marissa Motto, Megan Mullan, Jules Anslow, Russ Morgan, Stuart Gullstrand, Steve Jensen, Elinor Paulus, Lorelei Paulus, LisaLou Gogal, Heather Reiki, Allison Grable, Jana Rekosh, Kristen Humphries, Kahley Mae Estenson-Montez, Beth Dodrill, Abby Storwick, Joss van der Put, Raniere, and Christy Smith. Thanks to Kallipso Rose for doing make-up, Steven Lough and Nancy Judd for being MCs, and to Jill King for doing flamenco dance during intermission. And thank-you to the staff and volunteers of the Schack Art Center for hosting this event, especially gallery director Carie Collver!
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
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
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
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.