The tradition of recycling in America dates back to the 19th century. Pieced quilts, dolls and rag rugs from old clothing, weathervanes made from scrap metal and wood, and windows made from re-fired used glass are a treasured legacy of our historical practice of recycling, upcycling and repurposing. With increased environmental concerns in recent years, salvaging and reusing discarded, broken and worn out materials has gained new respectability.
Artists have always seen lots of creative possibilities in found objects and recycled materials. Picasso fashioned a bull’s head from an old bicycle handlebar and seat. Alexander Calder made whimsical animals from coffee cans and wire hangers, while Louise Nevelson created evocative sculpture from scrap lumber. Using items as diverse as plastic or glass containers, discarded metal, reclaimed wood, used paper products, cast-off fabrics, bottle caps, tag sale jewelry and cracked pottery, a marvelous alchemy can be achieved as familiar substances transform into something unexpected. So, let’s talk trash!
All of the metal in James Kitchen’s imposing sculptures come from local farms, antiques stores, scrap yards, and occasionally a neighbor who leaves a pile of interesting objects in his driveway. Jillian Greg collects textured shells containing remnants of the sea, patinaed coins, ancient bells and tribal beads to fashion bold, one-of-a-kind jewelry. Karen Hibbs builds stunning glass panels around 350-million-year-old fossils – creatures like ammonites left over from the Cretaceous Period, as well as fossilized scarab beetles, fish and ferns. For pure whimsy as well as sophisticated folk art, take a look at Mimi Kirchner’s dolls, which incorporate cast-off fabric and found objects. The Sabbath candlesticks pictured here were fashioned from vintage china salt and pepper shakers and combined with polished pewter by Frann Addison. Lauren Pollaro could be the queen of repurposed materials, layering them in her jewelry and her abstract wall pieces.