Recycled Reincarnation

‘Ecocreations’ brings new life to ‘trash’

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Amanda Moutinho | Boulder Weekly

When a mirror breaks, some worry about seven years of bad luck, but Jane Glotzer just sees an opportunity for a new art project. Glotzer is a mosaic artist, but instead of shelling out pretty pennies for pricey new materials, she visits second-hand shops, finds discarded items on the side of the road or even looks in dumpsters in search of anything she can work with. Used, not used up, she says.

Two of Glotzer’s pieces are featured in the EcoCreations 6 exhibit at the Muse Gallery — one a broken shovel and the other an old hubcap. Both are covered in glass and mirror mosaic that revitalize the disposed items into something new.

“Everything we need to have to love and enjoy in our lives doesn’t have to be brand new,” Glotzer says. “There’s a lot of life in old things.”

This is the sixth year for the exhibit, and every year both the artists’ and audience response has increased, says Joanne Kirves, executive director of Arts Longmont, which manages Muse Gallery. It’s a juried exhibit open to national submissions and is sponsored by environmental nonprofit Eco-Cycle.

To be considered for the exhibit, the work has to be made of 90 percent recycled material and/or found objects. Kirves says the judges look at how the artists change the perspectives of the material they use to turn it on its head. For her, she says she sees the recycled/found object movement as more of an evolution of its own medium.

“It shows another medium beyond the traditional paint and sculpting from clay and that there’s other ways to create. It really highlights creativity of the artists, and it shows the community how you can recycle everything,” she says. “There’s the opportunity to get them thinking about what they do with their trash.”

Certain pieces cause the audience to double take, looking closer at what materials are actually photo used. Items in the exhibit include buttons, Barbie shoes, Legos, an old door, a broken sledgehammer, electronics, eyeglasses, watches, pens, keys, jewelry, bolts and bottle caps, among other things. There are a variety of art works included with some blending in the materials, forcing you to look closer, like Kathy Thaden’s “Remnants,” while others present the found objects outright to create a statement such as “Eureka!” by Stefan Begej.

Some artists have a bigger environmental goal with the art. Glotzer says with her work she’s trying to counteract the current disposable society. Nowadays, things are built to last only a few years, she says, but decades ago you could have the same toaster for 25 years. Her environmentally friendly art started when she was working with an interior designer. Glotzer says it felt wasteful to just throw away fabric samples, so she took them home to create projects including eyeglass cases and tote bags. She says she’s interested in all the re’s: reducing, recovering, reclaiming, redesigning, reusing, repurposing and reimagining.

“We have limited resources, and we also have a plethora of stuff hanging around. I’m just trying to counteract all the waste I see around me. I’m just trying to do my little part,” Glotzer says. “It’s all part of that idea of being aware of the impact we have on the Earth, it’s not going to be here forever, even though some people think so.”

This style of art also bodes well for the problem-solving minded. Laine Greaves-Smith has always been interested in both art and engineering. He went on to pursue a degree in theater technical design. But when he’d come home from class to build robots in his dorm room, he decided to make a switch and attend Colorado School of Mines to study mechanical and electrical engineering.

Now in his free time, Greaves- Smith does art with a left-brained approach. He says he focuses on functional art, including lamps and desks. He gets an idea and sees if he can create it, such as a table that spins using a series of gears. He finds his materials at car repair shops and from friends and family who give him old parts or broken electronics.

“The reason people give me stuff is because they think it’s so small and worthless to them,” he says. “And they think [the parts are] damaged and no longer work in a car so they’re useless.”

His piece “Bike Chandelier,” which got honorable mention in the exhibit, started because his parents give him a broken garage door chain. Greaves-Smith used other garage door and bike chains to create the unique chandelier.

“I like to see how to reuse it and give it new purpose where people wouldn’t expect it, and present the different components that people never see,” he says.

One of the upsides of using found/ recycled material is the much lower cost than buying new. Yet, despite the savings, the artists say their material speaks to the art they create.

“It started out as the poor college kid not actually wanting to buy things, but now I’ve really grown a style,” Greaves- Smith says. “When I first started I was just looking for anything metal, and that’s when I was taking people’s random parts. But now I’m developing more of a style of moving things with car parts. I really enjoy that. It’s interesting because it provides another obstacle and artistic outlet of using what I have and what I can find instead of just going and buying things. A lot of times it inspires or changes the design.”

For some artists, this is their first venture into recycled/found objects. Pete Wysong mostly works in ceramics, but while building an art studio in his backyard, he had spare wood hanging around so he made his piece “Ship of Dreams,” currently in the exhibit. He hopes it sells, but laughs and says he’s grown attached to it.

“It’s the only thing like it that I’ve ever made,” Wysong says. “A lot of artists go through that with something new that they have tried.”

Using found objects can also make the art more special. When creating his piece, Wysong used a chopstick from a friend, who he recently lost to cancer. Now, he says, she’s a permanent part of his artwork.

Wysong gets most of his wood from ReSource, which sells reclaimed materials. He says he loves going there because he never knows what he’s going to find. The artists all say that using recycled/found material also breeds creativity. He remembers once picking up an odd item at Home Depot. When the cashier asked what it was, Wysong replied he didn’t know, but knew he could find something to do with it.

Pete isn’t the only Wysong who has been featured in the exhibit. A few years ago, his twin sons were featured in EcoCreations — at just 6 years old.

“I gave them a gallon of glue and a big pile of wood and said, ‘Go for it,’” he says.

The twins went on to create an abstract piece that was probably a plane or firetruck in their minds, Wysong says. He submitted it to EcoCreations, and Kirves loved it. The kids frequently accompany their dad to ReSource and pick out random objects to play with, and he says he feels lucky they can use their imaginations to be entertained. Wysong continues to spread that creativity at his job as a middle/elementary school art teacher.

“You can put something in front of [the students] that is unknown and foreign to them,” he says. “But it’ll get their interest, and it forces them to think about the possibilities.”

That fresh perspective toward items is exactly what Kirves hopes the EcoCreations exhibit does for people. She says she hopes it inspires people to stop throwing things away and sparks some change.

“The exhibit shows the nature of where we are right now and the amount of trash we produce. It’s trying to get people to think differently and educate people on what they can recycle,” she says. “It’s important for our future to get more people to think about recycling and thinking about how to use things differently. There’s a larger message of everyone can do this and everyone can reuse things.”

ON THE BILL: EcoCreations 6. Muse Gallerym 356 Main St., Longmont, 303-678-7869. Through April 25.