Reduce, reuse, create
Art and politics don’t always go together. But at Western Nevada Community College’s Recycled Art(icles) exhibit, handily scheduled to coincide with Earth Day, the idea of recycling as a message of social consciousness and the idea of recycling as a resourceful, creative adaptation of materials fuse together into a fun, anything-goes display.
Artists from kids to pros embraced the college’s annual challenge to make art out of anything that’s already been used, an assignment open for vast interpretation. Technique, aesthetic, craftsmanship and level of appreciation for art-historical in-jokes all run their respective gamuts. The exhibit clearly prioritizes creativity over coloring in the lines, and the gallery is practically throbbing with quite justified do-it-yourself pride.
MOMA curators may or may not run clamoring for the yarn-cheese pizza with paper salad or tissue-box cars with soda-bottle drivers, but the crafty assemblages really make me want to pick up a tube of glue and make stuff.
Some of the work leans into the territories of high art and industrial design, accomplishing similar goals with humbler materials. A stack of 50 tins from Altoids and other mints nods toward conceptual minimalist art of the 1960s. Two functioning clocks tick away the minutes in homage to George Nelson’s radial clocks of the 1950s, with slick wooden spheres replaced by Bic lighters and recycled cell phones.
One of the most memorable and well-crafted artworks is a bowling ball camouflaged with a scattered rainbow of glass pebbles on an iron stand. It pretty well summarizes the exhibit’s prevailing subthematic assertion: Instead of personalizing your life with decor from Wal-Mart, make something you like.
No show called Recycled Art(icles) would be complete without a tribute to the world’s most prominent disposable-yet-widely-collected material: the bottle cap. Again, a bowling ball works as an armature. The finished result is a spirited piece of yard- or family-room art.
The rough edges and varying levels of expertise of Recycled Art(icles) don’t contradict the show’s mission at all. This collection of artworks is both a reminder of reuse as a conservation strategy and a creative endeavor, providing you can do a lot with a little.