I spent two days clearing the overgrowth from our neglected garden on the suggestion that my creations would look less like trash strewn haphazardly about. During this time I recalled memories of working along-side my grandmother in her garden when I was a teen. Names of the plants came to my mind and I could almost hear her voice as she instructed me on the care of every plant. She passed a wealth of knowledge down to me along with her love and respect for nature. This was a great gift and I believe I should pay it forward by working to raise awareness through my art on the threats to our beautiful planet. As I cleared, I also realized that my initial idea for this installation could not convey this deep respect for nature. I became convinced that no matter how neat the space if I did not pursue a more realistic representation my message would become as jumbled as the landfills and floating trash islands I am concerned about and might be lost altogether. I wanted to work WITH the spiritual qualities I could feel rising from this peaceful little garden, not against them. So I went back to the drawing board……
The first step was to explore the collection of material I have so lovingly cherished for two years. Pulling out the many bags and boxes of colorful styrofoam, cellophane bags, plastic bottles with colorful labels – I began to ‘see’ flowers. Using google search I entered terms such as “yellow flowers” and “blue flowers” and scrolled through the images. As I narrowed down my search I would also see flowers so beautiful that I longed to be able to recreate them in my studio. So I would go back to my piles and boxes of post consumer packaging and search for material to make it work. This process for me is not a hurried, careless pawing through my stuff but rather a deliberate and thoughtful sifting. To me the results are always worth the extra time.
So now I will let those results speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.
The process I follow is about exploration and discovery. I start with an idea and I can usually picture in my mind what I hope the finished product will look like. After I get started I sometimes find it necessary to be open and adaptable. Plastics and foam have a ‘memory’ and sometimes it just doesn’t look like my vision. Or, I might find during the process of working with the material that another form develops. I try not to get too attached to my original idea about form so I can see new possibilities as they occur. That doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes struggle, I just work intuitively. By allowing myself this freedom to explore I am allowing my vision to evolve.
My material selections will change as I work like a painter choosing different color schemes.
Nature provided models for some of the flowers……..
Others were taken from images.
After I decided on a form I spent time carefully sorting through my materials until I found something that fit. Sometimes while sorting I would come across a piece of material that suggested a flower. Then I would go back to searching for images until I found the flower that fit my stuff!
“Widget was like a piñata when she first came to the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys. But instead of pieces of candy, the loggerhead sea turtle was filled with garbage. Inside her were three shredded balloons —red, green and black. One plastic glove — the kind sandwich makers wear in fast-food joints. A black cap that looked like it belonged on a tire stem, and some duct tape. Widget ate the items, mistaking them for food. The pieces of garbage are now in a glass jar that sits on a counter in the hospital, where only sick turtles are examined. As Widget rested in her own tank, volunteers waited for more junk to flow out of her. Once her system was clean, volunteers would take the jar with them when they talked about pollution in the Gulf of Mexico. Debris in the Gulf is only one type of pollution that harms sea turtles and other species. For many humans, the Gulf serves as a gigantic garbage can. For marine species, like Widget, it’s their home, which she returned to in July.”
Written by Dianna Smith for the Naples Daily News (FLA) 10.03.2003 as part of a 15 part series and reposted at mindfully.org
Are these flowers? Are you sure? I think they are really alien life forms……..
I know this because I found their communicator thingy…….
Or they could be flowers from the future.
For this project I will continue to use post-consumer materials that cannot be recycled therefore must be discarded in landfills. Much of this material includes cellophane and plastic wrapping for food, Styrofoam packaging, plastic bottle caps and straws, etc. items that often end up discarded along the way including along the beaches and shorelines.
During Spring 2012 I collected everything from my household that was to be discarded or recycled. By the end of the project I had become slightly obsessed about not tossing out anything that held possibilities for re-creation into something that could be seen as valuable. The result has been an endless supply of material to sculpt with and tremendous insight into the nature of our consumer culture, my consumer habits, and the peril these habits hold for our beautiful yet fragile planet. When my grandson was born a year ago and I held him in my arms for the first time I knew I would always want a better world for him to grow up in and to have that I would have to do my part. The Hangout Project became the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series and become part of the dialogue about the environment.
So I have begun 3-D Thinking for the second year now. I am working independently this year and for the first project (and maybe the only project) I am working on creating an installation piece. I have several ideas I am kicking around. Nell suggested I make a digital collage using images of my work from senior seminar, which sounded like a very good, and exciting idea to me! For the first collage, I have created a solarium.
My first idea for the final project in Digital Imaging class was to interview people about what made them happy in life. I planned to use sound bites from the interviews over video of a child playing with her doll, then introduce trash to the scene, and have video of big box stores with the packed shelves of junk….. etc. ad naseum.
Before I had wasted too much time on this lame idea I was not really excited about, there came a day in my studio when a discussion with my professor shed light on a new idea. She suggested that I wanted to use my trash pieces from the capstone course in some way that worked together with the overall theme I have been exploring this semester.
“This is what you really want to do, stop denying yourself!”
Beginning with the idea of having a ‘town’ put together out of my hand made trash work, I grouped them until I felt they were right for the scene I wanted to film.
After playing around with the arrangement of my pieces and grouping them into a little ‘city’ I began to film from several angles. Keeping in mind the elements of design discussed in class when we watched “Turbulent” by Shirin Neshat, I began by playing with the perspective and adding visual texture in Final Cut, using special effect filters, to the segments to create a sort of weird, other-wordly imagery.
I wanted to put the main character into the landscape and have her walking among the trash creations as though they were life size. I filmed her from above walking, then standing and sitting from the same level. After several false starts I was able to eliminate most of the background without using a green-screen and overlay the image where she would appear to actually be in the trash city.
In GarageBand I put together a sound track for my film that used special effect sounds of slamming air locks with a looping, eerie string piece and birds singing. Adding the laughter of a child at the end.
I was asked recently to give a short speech at a monthly event on campus about my beliefs. Because I am becoming more and more involved in environmental activism in my art I decided to talk about how I felt and what I believed about recycling and consumerism. Part of the speech was taken from a former post made during the course on three-dimensional thinking. I am posting my speech in its entirety, including the parts already posted on this blog, because I believe it sums up the direction I am taking quite well.
Grandmother. Grandma. Granny.
On or around January 10, I will be making yet another ‘rite of passage’ as a woman when my oldest daughter gives birth to my first grandbaby, and I can hardly wait. But this coming event has brought more than booties and bottles to the forefront of my mind. I am reflecting on the state of the environment of this great planet more than I ever have before. It’s not that I didn’t care when my daughters were born so many years ago. In fact, my oldest daughter was only 6 months old when, in March 1979, there was a serious accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. I have not forgotten the fear of waiting for news that could tell us exactly what was happening. After the worst was presumably over I learned more about the environment and pollution. Like many, I began to recycle and reuse, hoping to decrease my global footprint. But over the years my attention turned more and more to the daily hassles of life and I began to pay less notice to news about the environment. When I did hear anything about pollution or landfills I felt smug in the knowledge that I recycled. I also paid little attention to my buying habits as well, which grew in proportion to my income. I did, after all, recycle. If you asked me exactly what that meant all I could tell you was that I deposited certain types of materials into the appropriate containers every week. As far as I was concerned, I was golden.
This past spring I enrolled in Three Dimensional Thinking, a sculpture class taught by Nell Ruby. One of our class assignments involved collaboration with the Office of Sustainability on individual projects using recyclable material. This one project has grown to become the center of my artist statement and the focus of my senior seminar as I learned more and more about the state of our environment, both here and around the world, and the connection to consumer culture. For instance, I did not know that more than 250 Million tons of waste, are generated annually in the U.S. Or that out of this refuse, only about 30% is actually recycled, leaving approximately 175 million tons of waste to be dumped into landfills. Or that plastic is made from the by-products of oil after the octane is removed for fuel. And I knew absolutely nothing about the impact on the environment or the communities and people within and around the areas where oil is taken from the earth.
A walk through a local “Big Box” store provided more insight into the consumer connection. Shelf after shelf of cheap items made mostly out of plastic and marketed to get my attention. It’s no wonder a single trip to Walmart to buy a roll of masking tape can easily result in a basket full of items, mostly junk, that will ultimately end up in the trash. As a consumer I am “consumed” by the idea of “more is better”. And while having more stuff may make me feel better for a moment, more IS NOT better for my environment. Although I recycle as much as possible and I re-use or find new uses for items no longer serving their original purpose, there is still a limit to what can actually be recycled. So I wondered if I could re-train my brain to want less. I decided it might be time for some retail therapy in my life. The 12 steps of recovery, which originated with the founders of Alcoholic Anonymous, have proven very useful as tools for changing harmful behaviors. On a whim, I applied them to consumer habits.
- Step 1: Admitted I was powerless over big-box stores, that my plastic consumption had become unmanageable.
- Step 2: Came to believe that “green” knowledge could restore me to sanity.
- Step 3: Became willing to turn my buying habits over to the idea that less REALLY IS more.
- Step 4: Made a searching and fearless personal “trash inventory” of the stuff I throw away.
Okay now, step 4 was really revealing. In one week my household (myself and one 10 yr. old child) accumulated three bags of material for recycling! Suddenly, all of my ongoing efforts to recycle shrank in comparison to the larger picture of this amount of trash multiplied by 52 weeks.
- Step 5: Admitted to myself, to my spirit, and to anyone who will listen, that over-consumption is in my nature.
- Step 6: Was entirely convinced I needed to change the way I “consume” the earth’s resources.
- Step 7: Humbly began to approach reduced consumption as a means to help save my planet from destruction.
- Step 8: Made a list of all the ways I can reduce and reuse.
- Step 9: Began to reduce my unnecessary consumption whenever and wherever possible.
- Step 10: Continued to take “trash inventory” and promptly adjust my consumption as needed.
- Step 11: Sought through research to improve my conscious understanding of eco-friendly principles and meditated for the power to carry them out in my daily life.
- Step 12: Having had a spiritual reality check as a result of these steps, I will try to promote the idea of consumer accountability by setting an example and practicing eco-friendly principles everyday.
As it turned out, these steps are more serious than playful when I think in terms of what my children’s children will inherit. Although the task may seem daunting when viewed as a whole, I still believe that what I do as one single person really does have an impact on the big picture. By living more responsibly as a consumer I can reduce my impact on the planet and encourage others by setting an example. I taught my daughters to love and respect the environment. One day soon I will continue that legacy with my grandson.
These are some “shelters” I have created using trash and a bit of whimsy.
I have to be careful to stay unattached and in the process or I end up overworking the idea. Then it becomes about me and not the formal qualities I’m trying to learn. And I end up with junk. Sometimes it’s cute junk, but still…
When I first approached this project, I was excited about the vision I had for the outcome.
These are nothing like what I first had in mind.
Somewhere along the way I fired my brain and got busy with the job of creating art for the sake of art.
I truly hope these are living up to those last words because I love them so much.
I really needed to use my work from senior projects as some kind of group piece, but it wasn’t making me happy for that class. They are separate in nature because of their nature. For more on this see my capstone entries. For the video, however, they are perfect!
Coming Soon to a Digital Imaging Class near you!
Olivia Takes Out The Trash!
The very short story of one girls very short journey into a (not so much parallel as might be thought) universe while attempting to complete a simple daily chore. Using scale, perspective, texture, value, and symmetry as elements of design I am in the process of creating a strange world that I hope will speak volumes about the refuse we discard. Pun intended.
The final assignment for Digital Imaging class is (drum roll please!) making a short film. And by short, I mean one minute. Given a list of choices, we have been asked to pick a subject of interest and create a film using the formal principles of design associated with visual art. Some of these are:
Value (light and dark)
Symmetry (balance, rhythm)
Perspective (point of view)
Texture (illusion of physical texture)
In preparation for this task we were asked to view a short film (app. 9 minutes long) by Shirin Neshat titled “Turbulent” and featuring vocalist and composer Sussan Deyhim and male vocalist Shoja Azari engaged in an exchange of Persian music. Set up on a split screen, Neshat contrasts symmetry, value, perspective, and texture to create a compelling piece about gender roles in her world. Having already seen her full length film “Women without Men” I knew to expect both subtle and dramatic visual manipulation that entrances the viewer while suggesting the story. I felt drawn into the world she was presenting to me during both films and a little pleasantly visually hung over afterwards. “Turbulent” uses a split screen format, one screen is visually calm during and after Azari completes his song, but as Deyhim begins to sing her screen becomes almost frenetic with energy and passion. The shadows, motion, body language and constantly shifting perspective within her frame add up to a strong contrast between the screens. The tension of this contrast creates a feeling of anticipation and challenges the viewer to observe carefully so as not to miss whatever comes next.
Before this class I had long ago abandoned watercolors in favor of acrylics. I remember an instructor at William Carey denigrating them as “old lady paint”. Well, nobody wants to be associated with old lady paint! I did not have a very good formal education, as far as art is concerned, before Agnes. I see that now. Had I looked around further out from my little world I would have found so much information to use in developing an artistic voice. Oh well, that is water under the bridge. It is never too late, as they say. This semester has both challenged and frustrated me from all different angles. But I have grown. For that, I am truly grateful.
As for watercolors, I see the value in them, both literally and figuratively. Learning to go slow, a built-in characteristic of the medium, and allow the time to really study my subject is producing some pretty exciting results. Deeply gazing at each nuanced shade of color, shape of form and angle of line at the edges where they meet, I let my eyes flow along and work in concert with my hand. All the while leaving my meddling brain to sleep on the sidelines. A side benefit has been the meditative manner I have begun to approach each session with fluid media, basking in the process while letting my mind drift quietly along the edge of awareness, only to “come to” and find a beautiful interpretation of a fall leaf at my fingertips. The pleasant wisps of thought that remains, each time leaving me calmer and more healed than the last. I still need balance and this helps.
I have been increasingly frustrated with my attempts to make something happen with all this trash. First I thought I wanted to convey a sense of the day-to-day reality for people living in developing areas of the world, like the Amazon rainforests in Ecuador, where over 30 years of pollution caused by toxic oil spills into the water and on the land of their villages threatens their existence. Nell suggested I make a number of sketches of their homes to begin…..
I really like these drawings. So much so that when I started trying to create them with trash I could not let go of their inherent nature and make anything happen.
That phrase….make happen…..
Trying to make it happen.
Trying to impose my will.
My precious concept. (my presssciousssss…)
The suggestion to give up the fight and give into the process yielded 2 hours of unguided exploration into what these unfamiliar materials would actually or could actually do.
The results made me very happy!
Surrender is so peaceful…….
I have been collecting recyclable and non-recyclable material throughout the summer in preparation for my senior seminar this fall. I unpacked everything in my studio……
and stepped back to absorb the mess…
So I did some obsessive sorting and ended up with what Victoria calls my palette….
The third painting for this semester involved beginning with a subject taken from a still life and executed on paper using direct observation with attention to form.
After all of us worked carefully on drawing out a form or forms from our still life that was rendered carefully, we were instructed to take some risks with the assigned media. Ink in bold colors, water-soluble crayons, and white acrylic gesso was provided.
Wait a minute…..by take risks did you mean do something we had never tried before?
On our careful, precise drawings???
So a good start, but all the lines are running off the page. And that diagonal line at the bottom does not help.
Okay…now the eye follows the page better…
NO! NO! NO! This is about the legs from the still life! NOT what’s in your head!
Yeah…. better. Now can we resolve the background so this becomes about the still life?
Much better for the critique! The corners need to be painted in and there is still a washed out feel…
Taking the risk of letting go of what’s in my head and what I ‘think’ I know seems to be right for me. I am learning more about the media, technique, and rules of design (and how to use them) than in the years before. What I made for art in the past was ok….but I want my art to be awesome! If I can quiet my ego and open my mind to new ideas and directions I believe I can take off and fly one day…..