Garbage in, art out
Talking trash with four Sacramento artists
“What a piece of trash!” That phrase uttered aloud might get you kicked out of an art gallery right on your tuchis. However, for four Sacramento artists who use old magazines, scrap metal, scavenged wood and other discarded objects in their creations, such words would undoubtedly be received as high praise.
“I love walking through the scrap yard and seeing all this discarded waste and knowing that I will take some of it out of the landfill and create a beautiful sculpture with it,” says Kristen Hoard, sounding like a kid in a candy store. Hoard creates sculptures from discarded metal; her favorite recycled piece is a jellyfish made from the bottom of a Weber barbecue. “Whenever I tell anyone that it’s a Weber barbecue, they immediately see what it was originally and are amazed at what it turned into,” she says.
In the studio, Hoard uses an environmentally friendly alcohol-based gel to heat up some of her sculptures. “The gel provides a nice warm fire element without the smoke and soot going into the environment,” she emphasized. Any leftover scrap metal is used in other projects, both her own and the artists she shares her studio with, so there’s very little waste.
Jill Stafford, a collage and mixed-media artist, also creates works from recycled materials, such as old cigarette boxes. She paints the exteriors, adds some collage pieces and, depending on the piece, she may design the inside of the box as well. “I love the idea that I can give this object designed to promote smoking a completely different life,” she explains.
In addition to using old cigarette boxes, she often finds that the roadside is a veritable smorgasbord of treasures. She often discovers discarded paper with unique fonts and perfect weathering. “Our resources are becoming so incredibly limited, why not utilize as many alternative objects as you can?” she asks.
That is just what painter and printmaker Andrew Littlefield does. He works at a print shop, where he finds old pallets, plates from printing presses, paper and metallic Mylar sheets that are a byproduct of the proofing process. “We all need to reduce, reuse, recycle,” he says. “I’m hoping to set an example in the way I’ve been working with garbage.”
Lately, Littlefield has been making transfer prints from his travels on reclaimed plywood, then putting on the finishing touches with pencil and charcoal. Green art isn’t a passing phase for Andrew. He uses reclaimed materials because it’s his favorite medium. “I know it’s important for all of us to do everything we can to be as green as we can,” he says. “It’s our responsibility to the future and to the next generation. I can see the artist community leading the way.”
Eileen Downes, a self-proclaimed layerist collage painter, used to work for an environmental engineering firm. She creates paintings using torn pages from old magazines as her palette, creating a rough-around-the-edges mosaic effect. “I work the image by adding and subtracting tonal values of paper until I create the desired effect,” she says.
Downes took a momentary break from her work to broach the eternal debate surrounding art. “Art is a reflection of life, what is going on in the nation and the world,” she says. Which just might mean society is finally starting to clean up its act. With that said, go recycle this paper. Or give it to Downes.