Trash Talking Artist…Filthy Lucre


One of my latest finds in the bay…a cache of (foreign) money…coins and a couple bills.  I really don’t have any good ideas for using this money yet, but I’ve got it in a dish on my work table in the event that the planets become aligned and some brilliant idea comes sweeping over me.  I’ve used foreign paper money in the past in a couple of my pieces…I used to live in South America years ago and came home with a bag full of small bills/paper money that eventually became relatively worthless to me.  Instead of leaving it in that box of treasures (with the stuffed alligator head) in the closet, I did the next best thing…shredding it to make “hair” for one of my vintage photo ladies.  Yes, an odd piece at best, but it eventually sold at Cannibals Gallery.

Amazingly, about the same time that I found this foreign money, I also found a small change purse filled with U.S. pennies, nickels and dimes…unfortunately, no paper money…can’t win ’em all !!



the pile

Right now you are looking at a tame pile, which makes for easy sifting.  The past few weekends it tickled the top of the concrete wall and lofted mounds of potential just out of reach.  But not this time.  This time I was able to look through just about everything.  I found a bunch of nice picture frames, one of which will frame Laszlo (a piece thats nearly finished).

I also scavenged a few bent horns, but set them aside thinking one of the other artists might be interested.  Any takers?

a time line of trash

i had already planned on teaching a segment to my 3D design students regarding the marks we make and the importance of what we leave behind. little did i know that this GLEANing opportunity would rub so comfortably up against my curriculum.

on thursday my 3D students at PNCA will begin their assignment to collect and examine bi-products of existence and transform them into a piece of sculpture that is very self aware of its material make-up.  the project will be framed by my own infatuation with garbage, but won’t necessarily have to be made out of trash.  the project will be the second in a growing series of assignments that tasks the student to take the design principles that we have examined in the first part of the semester and begin to combine them with a personal and conceptual consideration that starts to explore the meaning within a work of art.

under the declaration that the two truths of existence are effluents and gravity, i am starting my lecture with an extensive timeline of trash and here it is for your viewing pleasure.

10000 BC Garbage becomes an issue as people first begin to establish permanent settlements
400 BC The first municipal dump is established in ancient Athens
200 The first sanitation force is created by the Romans. Teams of two men walk along the streets, pick up garbage and throw it in a wagon.
1388 The English Parliament bans dumping of waste in ditches and public waterways.
1551 The first recorded use of packaging: German papermaker Andreas Bernhart begins placing his paper in wrappers labeled with his name and address.
1657 New Amsterdam (now Manhattan) passes a law against casting waste in the streets.
1690 The Rittenhouse Mill, America’s first paper mill, opens in Philadelphia making paper from recycled cotton and linen as well as used paper.
1710 Colonists in Virginia commonly bury their trash. Holes are filled with building debris, broken glass or ceramic objects, oyster shells and animal bones. They also throw away hundreds of suits of armor that were sent to protect colonists from arrows of native inhabitants.
1776 The first metal recycling in America occurs when patriots in New York City melt down a statue of King George III and make it into bullets.
1792 Benjamin Franklin uses slaves to carry Philadelphia’s waste downstream.
1800 Pigs loose in city streets throughout the country eat garbage and leave their own wastes behind.
1800 Visitors describe New York City as a “nasal disaster, where some streets smell like bad eggs dissolved in ammonia.”
1810 The tin can is patented in London by Peter Durand.
1834 Charleston, West Virginia, enacts a law protecting vultures from hunters. The birds help eat the city’s garbage.
1850 Junk dealers in Reno, Nevada scavenge personal belongings from the Oregon, Santa Fe and California trails. Pioneers abandoned the items on the long trek west.
1860 American newspapers are now printed on paper made from wood pulp fibers rather than rags.
1860 Residents of Washington, D.C. dump garbage and slop into alleys and streets, pigs roam freely, slaughterhouses spew nauseating fumes and rats and cockroaches infest most dwellings including the White House.
1866 New York City’s Metropolitan Board of Health declares war on garbage, forbidding the “throwing of dead animals, garbage or ashes into the streets.
1868 Brothers I.S. and John Hyatt successfully manufacture “celluloid,” the first commercial synthetic plastic. It replaces wood, ivory, metal and linen in such items as combs, billiard balls, eyeglasses and shirt collars.
1869 The first commercial plastic, called celluloid, was developed by an entrepreneurial maker of dental plates and novelty items. He had answered an ad placed by a supplier of billiards equipment offering a reward for developing a suitable replacement material for elephant ivory to make billiard balls
1872 New York City stops dumping its garbage from a platform built over the East River.
1874 The organized incineration of collected trash begins in Nottingham, England.
1879 Frank Woolworth opens the first five and dime store in Utica, New York. He pioneers the idea of displaying goods on open counters so customers can see and feel merchandise (a practice that later makes larger, theft proof packaging necessary).
1879 “Thither were brought the dead dogs and cats, the kitchen garbage and the like, and duly dumped. This festering, rotten mess were picked over by rag pickers and wallowed over by pigs, pigs and humans contesting for a living from it, and as the heaps increased, the odors increased also, and the mass lay corrupting under a tropical sun, dispersing the pestilential fumes where the winds carried them.” – Minister describing the New Orleans dump to the American Public Health Association.
1880 Many Americans still believe that diseases such as typhoid fever are caused by “miasma” or gases coming from garbage and sewers.
1880 New York City scavengers remove 15,000 horse carcasses from the streets.
1885 The first garbage incinerator in the U.S. is built on Governors Island in New York Harbor.
1885-1908 180 garbage incinerators are built in the United States.
1889 “Appropriate places for (refuse) are becoming scarcer year by year, and the question as to some other method of disposal…must soon confront us. Already the inhabitants in proximity to the public dumps are beginning to complain.” – Health Officer’s report, Washington, D.C.
1892 Beer bottles now sport a metal cap to prevent spoilage.
1893 “The means resorted to by a large number of citizens to get rid of their garbage and avoid paying for its collection would be very amusing were it not such a menace to public health. Some burn it, while others wrap it up in paper and carry it on their way to work and drop it when unobserved, or throw it into vacant lots or into the river.” – Boston Sanitary Committee
1894 The citizens of Alexandria, Virginia are disgusted by the sight of barge loads of garbage floating down the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. They take to sinking the barges upriver from their community.
1895 King C. Gillette, a traveling salesman, invents a razor with disposable blades.
1896 Chicago’s City Council records its concern for the death rate in the 19th Ward, which has eight miles of unpaved roads that can’t be swept, roads “polluted to the last degree with trampled garbage, excreta and other vegetables and animal refuse of the vilest description.”
1897 The first recycling center is established in New York City.
1898 Colonel George Waring, New York’s Street Cleaning Commissioner, organizes the country’s first rubbish sorting plant for recycling.
1899 The federal Rivers and Harbors Act restricts dumping in navigable rivers, to keep them open for shipping.
1900 American cities begin to estimate and record collected wastes. According to one estimate, each American produces annually: 80 – 100 pounds of food waste; 50 – 100 pounds of rubbish; 300 – 1,200 pounds of wood or coal ash – up to 1,400 pounds per person.
1900 Greater acceptance of the germ theory of disease begins to shift the job of garbage removal from health departments to public works departments. Health officers, it is felt, should spend their time battling infectious diseases, not cleaning up “public nuisances” such as garbage.
1900 Hills Brothers Coffee in San Francisco puts the first vacuum-packed coffee on the market.
1900 Small and medium sized towns build piggeries, where swine are fed fresh or cooked garbage. One expert estimates that 75 pigs can eat one ton of refuse per day.
1900 There are over 3 million horses working in American cities, each producing over 20 pounds of manure and gallons of urine per day, most of which is left on the streets.
1902 A survey of 161 cities by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds that 79% of them provide regular collection of refuse.
1903 Corrugated paperboard containers are now used commercially.
1904 Large-scale aluminum recycling begins in Chicago and Cleveland.
1904 Montgomery Ward mails out 3 million catalogues weighing four pounds each.
1904 Postmaster General Henry Clay Payne authorizes permit mail. This means that with a single fee, 2,000 or more pieces of third or fourth class mail can be posted without stamps. This opens the door for direct mail advertising and mass solicitations.
1905 New York City begins using a garbage incinerator to generate electricity to light the Williamsburg Bridge.
1907 An unexpectedly thick run of toilet paper is converted to become the first paper towels.
1908 paper cups replace tin cups at water vending machines on trains and in public buildings.
1909 102 of 180 incinerators built since 1885 are abandoned or dismantled. Many had been inadequately built or run. Also, American’s abundant land and widely spaced population made dumping garage cheaper and more practical.
1909 Kraft paper pulp first made in the United States, a process developed in Germany in 1883.
1910 City beautification programs become more and more popular. Many cities have juvenile sanitation leagues whose members promise to help keep streets and neighborhoods clean. Sanitation works wear white uniforms, reminiscent of other public workers such as doctors and nurses.
1912 Cellophane (clear plastic) is invented by Swiss chemist Dr. Jacques Brandenberger, which encourages the use of plastic packaging.
1914 W.K. Kellogg invents a wax paper wrapper for Corn Flakes boxes.
1915 The National Clean-Up and Paint-Up bureau sponsors 5,000 local clean-up campaigns.
1916 Dr. Thomas Jasperson obtains a patent for making paper from de-inked wastepaper.
1916 Major cities estimate that of the 1,000 to 1,750 pounds of waste generated by each person per year, 80% is coal and wood ash.
1916 Waxed paper is commonly used to wrap bread.
1917 Shortages of raw materials during World War I prompt the federal government to start the Waste Reclamation Service, part of the War Industries Board. Its motto is “Don’t Waste Waste – Save it.” Every article of waste is considered valuable for industry.
1920 During this decade, “reclaiming” or filling wetlands near cities with garbage, ash and dirt becomes a popular disposal method.
1920 The first commercial radio broadcast. The technology held far reaching implications for advertising and purchasing. Americans buy 1.5 million radios within the year.
1924 The Kleenex facial tissue is introduced.
1926 Clarence Saunders opens the first supermarket. Pre-packaged food and self service packaging increases selection for consumers and lowers the cost of food.
1928 Cellophane is invented by the DuPont Cellophane Company. The transparent material is used as a protective wrapping for food and other products.
1928 Teleprinters and teletypewriters come into use.
1929 Aluminum foil is invented.
1930 A new plastic, polyvinyl chloride, is patented by B.F. Goodrich. It is used as a replacement for rubber, as protection against corrosion and for adhesives.
1930 Another plastic, polystyrene, is put on the market by a German firm, I.G. Farben, and also produced by Dow Chemical Company. The hard, shiny material is molded into tackle boxes, refrigerator linings and other items.
1930 Kimberly Clark develops disposable sanitary pads.
1932 The development of compactor garbage trucks increases vehicle capacity.
1933 Communities on the New Jersey shore obtain a court order forcing New York City to stop dumping garbage in the Atlantic Ocean. On July 1, 1934, the Supreme Court upholds the lower court action, but applies it only to municipal waste, not commercial or industrial wastes.
1935 Rohm and Haas invents Plexiglass, a clear plastic used in headlights, lenses, windows, clocks and jewelry.
1935 General Electric begins producing and marketing a garbage “Disposal.”
1935 The first beer can is produced by Kreuger’s Cream Ale in Richmond, VA. Over the next six months, company sales increased 550% because customers loved the convenience.
1936 Milk products are now commonly sold in paper packaging.
1937 The DuPont Company patents nylon, the world’s first synthetic fiber. Its strength, resistance to moisture and mildew, and good recovery after stretching lead to its use in stockings, electrical parts, power tools and car accessories.
1939 Coal and wood ash make up 43% of New York City’s refuse, down from 80% in 1916.
1939 Paperback books are introduced, selling for 25 cents.
1939 Wisconsin Select beer is sold in no deposit, no return bottles to compete with the recent introduction of beer in no return cans.
1939 Birds Eye introduces the first pre-cooked frozen foods – chicken fricassee and criss cross steak.
1940 Japanese conquests in Southeast Asia cut of America’s supply of tin, hampering canned food production.
1941 America enters World War II. Rationing of such materials as wood and metal forces an increased reliance on synthetic materials such as plastics. Low-density polyethylene film, developed during wartime, replaces cellophane as the favorite food wrap by 1960.
1942 Americans collect rubber, paper, glass, metals and fats to help the war effort. Paper collections are so successful they overwhelm the markets by the spring of 1942.
1942 Methods and materials for wartime shipment of food make World War II “the great divide” in the packaging and storage industry.
1943 The aerosol can is invented by two researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
1944 Styrofoam is invented by Dow Chemical Co.
1945 The first American ballpoint pens go on sale for $12.50 each at Gimbel’s in New York.
1946 Fortune Magazine heralds the arrival of the “dream era…The Great American Boom is on.”
1947 “Our willingness to part with something before it is completely worn out is a phenomenon noticeable in no other society in history…It is soundly based on our economy of abundance. It must be further nurtured even through it runs contrary to one of the oldest inbred laws of humanity, the law of thrift.” – J. Gordon Lippincott, industrial designer
1948 American Public Health Association predicts that the garbage disposal will cause the garbage can to “ultimately follow the privy” and become an “anachronism.”
1948 Fresh Kills landfill is opened in Staten Island, New York. It later becomes the world’s largest city dump. Fresh Kills and the Great Wall of China are the only man-made objects visible from space.
1950 A second hydraulic system to eject garbage is added to garbage trucks.
1950 An improved paper cup for hot beverages is introduced. It is lined with polyethylene instead of wax.
1950 The growth of convenience foods (frozen, canned, dried, boxed, etc) increases the amounts and changes the types of packaging thrown away.
1953 The American economy’s “ultimate purpose is to produce more consumer goods.” – Chairman of President Eisenhower’s Council of Economic Advisors.
1953 Swanson introduces the first successful TV dinner: turkey, mashed potatoes and peas.
1954 “Never underestimate the buying power of a child under seven. He has brand loyalty and the determination to see that his parents purchase the products of his choice.” – Dr. Frances Horwitch (“Miss Frances” of TV’s Ding Dong School) at Chicago advertising conference.
1957 High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is developed by Standard Oil of Indiana and Phillips Petroleum (now used for milk containers.)
1958 The Bic Crystal Company introduces the throwaway pen.
1959 Philadelphia closes its reduction plant (a facility for turning organic wastes into fats, grease and oils) the last one in the country.
1959 The American Society of Civil Engineers publishes a standard guide to sanitary landfilling. To guard against rodents and odors, it suggests compacting the refuse and covering it with a layer of soil each day.
1959 The first photocopier, the Xerox 914, is introduced – 22 years after it was patented.
1960 Bead molded polystyrene cups are introduced. They provide better insulation for hot drinks.
1960 Bread is sold bagged in polyethylene rather than wrapped in waxed paper.
1960 Easy open tops (pop tops) for beverage cans are invented. Iron City Beer in Pittsburgh is the first to try the invention and sales increase immediately.
1960 The first disposable razors are sold.
1961 Sam Yorty runs successfully for mayor of Los Angeles on a platform to end the inconvenience of separating refuse. A city ordinance eliminates the sorting of recyclables.
1963 The aluminum can for beverages is developed.
1965 The Federal Government realizes that garbage has become a major problem and enacts the Solid Waste Disposal Act. This calls for the nation to find better ways of dealing with trash.
1968 President Lyndon Johnson commissions the National Survey of Community Solid Waste Practices, which provides the first comprehensive data on solid waste since cities began to record amounts and types of waste in the early 1900s.
1968 The U.S. aluminum industry begins recycling discarded aluminum products, from beverage cans to window blinds.
1969 Seattle, Washington institutes a new fee structure for garbage pick up. Residents pay a base rate for one to four cans and an additional fee for each additional bundle or can.
1970 The Federal Clean Air Act enacted. New regulations lead to incineration shut downs.
1970 The first Earth Day. Millions of people rally nationwide on April 22.
1970 United States Environmental Protection Agency is created.
1971 Oregon passes the nation’s first bottle bill. By offering cash for aluminum, glass and plastic containers, it removes about 7% of its garbage from the waste stream.
1972 According to William Ruckelshaus, head of EPA, solid waste management is a “fundamental ecological issue. It illustrates, perhaps more clearly than any other environmental problem, that we must change many of our traditional attitudes and habits.”
1972 The Federal Clean Water Act is enacted to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.
1972 The first buy-back centers for recyclables are opened in Washington State. They accept beer bottles, aluminum cans and newspapers.
1974 The first city-wide use of curbside recycling bins occurs in University City, Missouri for collecting newspapers.
1975 “That happiness is to be attained through limitless material acquisition is denied by every religion and philosophy known to humankind, but is preached incessantly by every American television set.” – Robert Bellah, The Broken Covenant.
1976 The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act creates the first significant role for federal government in waste management. It emphasizes recycling and conservation of energy.
1976 The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act is passed, which requires all dumps to be replaced with “sanitary landfills.” The enforcement of this act will increase the cost of landfill disposal, and that will make resource-conserving options like recycling more appealing.
1976 The Toxic Substances Control Act is passed. Before this and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act went into effect, any individual or business could legally dump any kind and amount of hazardous chemicals in landfills.
1976 Three people from Bartlesville, Oklahoma get a patent on a method for purifying and reusing lubricating oils.
1977 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) soda bottles are introduced to replace glass bottles. The plastic was first developed in England in 1941.
1978 The Supreme Court rules that garbage is protected by the Interstate Commerce Clause; therefore, one state cannot ban shipments of waste from another.
1979 EPA issues landfill criteria that prohibit open dumping.
1980 Polypropylene is introduced and used for butter and margarine tubs and for drinking straws.
1983 The space shuttle is pulled out of service to replace a window that had been severely pitted by a chip of paint from space junk.
1984 During the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, athletes, trainers, coaches and spectators produce 6.5 million pounds of trash in 22 days, more than six pounds per person per day.
1984 Hazardous and Solid Waste Act amendments and reauthorization to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act require tougher federal regulation of landfills.
1986 Fresh Kills, in Staten Island, New York, becomes the largest landfill in the world.
1986 Rhode Island becomes the first state to pass mandatory recycling laws for aluminum and steel cans, glass, newspapers and #1 and #2 plastic.
1986 Rhode Island enacts the nation’s first statewide mandatory recycling law.
1986 The city of San Francisco meets its goal of recycling 25% of its commercial and residential waste.
1987 The Garbage Project at the University of Arizona, Tucson begins to excavate modern landfills as if they were ancient archaeological sites. The goal is to determine exactly what is inside landfills and how much of it biodegrades.
1987 The Mobro, a Long Island garbage barge, is turned away by six states and three countries. The garbage (mostly paper) is finally incinerated in Brooklyn and the ash buried in a landfill near Islip.
1988 “Nobody ever has enough.” – Lewis Lapham, Money and Class in America.
1988 The EPA estimates that more than 14,000 landfills have closed since 1978, more than 70% of those operating at that time. The landfills were full, unsafe or the owners declined to adhere to new standards.
1988 The Plastic Bottle Institute develops a material-identification code system for plastic bottle manufacturers (this is our current #1-#7 system).
1989 EPA issues “An Agenda for Action,” calling for an integrated solid waste management approach to solving solid waste problems with waste problems, with waste prevention and recycling as its first two priorities.
1990 140 recycling laws enacted in 38 states and the District of Columbia.
1990 McDonald’s announces plans to stop the use of Styrofoam packaging of its food due to consumer protests.
1990 Neither shortening nor lengthening product life can be a general principle. The strategy, rather, is to fine tune the durations of things, now avoiding cheap things that break too soon and clog our trash cans, now expensive objets that last too long and clog our lives.” – Kevin Lynch, Wasting Away.
1990 On December 4, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi announced that they will begin using a recycled PET (#1 plastic) bottle made of about 25% recycled plastic resin.
1991 EPA issues comprehensive municipal solid waste landfill criteria required by the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendment.
1991 “Our economy is such that we cannot ‘afford’ to take care of things: labor is expensive, time is expensive, money is expensive, but materials – – the stuff of creation – – are so cheap that we cannot afford to take care of them.” – Wendell Berry
1993 Municipal Solid Waste landfill criteria become effective for most landfills in the U.S.
1993 “We’re reminded a hundred times a day to buy things, but we’re not reminded to take care of them, repair them, reuse them or give them away.” – Michael Jacobson, Center for the Study of Commercialism
2000 Cities in California are required to recycle 50% of its waste.
1998 – The Association of Science-Technology Centers Incorporated and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.
Timeline found on

cleaning off the dump

After collecting 160 lbs the other week,  I needed to sort and clean my supplies before I dove into making anything, but of course once I clean and sort, I can’t help but play a little.

I took a box cutter and sliced a bunch of the fabric off this couch as well as the gray lining in the bottom.  The fabric smelled of wet dog, and basement musk.  The silky white curtains I grabbed had mud and feet marks all over, but once washed and dried are going to be better than new.

Hot HOT HOT wash cycle for you 🙂

Look at these beaten down window screens.   I fantasize that once washed I can make you something more beautiful than you were before.  Off to wash you at home.

Here in the studio, I began draping the window screening onto one on the dress form.  I was just playing with shapes and manipulating the fiber to get some ideas… I like the pretty volume it creates.  My brain is pumping with ideas….

Disassembling a couple of clocks.  This was fun.  I love all the gears and the numbers.  I’m not sure what its all going to be just yet, but I’m definitely seeing a theme– a pattern, a mood, and shapes.  Over all, a successful studio play day.  Tomorrow back to the Dump to glean some more!


Trash Talking Artist…piano magic!

As a child growing up in “little town” North Dakota, I loved to visit my aunt and uncle, scurry down to their basement, and mess around with their old player piano.  I  remember having  to peddle that thing like crazy to keep the music coming.  For whatever reason, the piano sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t.  Little did I know that one day I’d be doing some major recycling work on a similar piano that had been dumped off in the bay at the Metro Central Station to glean for parts.  I found this beautiful (trashed) piano during my first week on the job (many thanks to James for pulling it over to our work station):


Using a few select tools (hammer, screwdriver, pliers, etc), I pulled, cut and yanked off the pieces that I could get to fairly easily, and that I thought would be of value for something that I’d want to create.  A couple hours later I left with some pretty good stuff:


I left the bay area in the early afternoon, leaving behind a few childhood player piano memories as well as this:



finding my voice among the trash

Within an hour, I noticed at least 10 people dumping old mattresses off.  Wow.  So many mattresses.  And James was saying that there isn’t anyway to recycle it.  This was a material that called to me. I MUST figure out a way to use this item and make it beautiful and useful again.

I took my box cutter and tore off the fabric cover.  Then tore off the thin balls of foam, to reveal the coveted springs.  They are so beautiful!

I took out my wire cutters and slowly started snipping the small coils and then twisted them off the large coils to release the springs.  This was a time consuming process.  I filled one box with large springs and coils and still had 3/4 of the mattress left to deconstruct.  (it wouldn’t fit in my little Nissan Versa).

Because it’s unsafe to listen to music while gleaning, I meditated on what I was drawn to and what was coming up for me.  I kept coming back to this feeling of sadness, and missed opportunity.  The old black and white photos really struck me.  I felt desperate to save them- to preserve them- to give them life- to hold these precious moments in time.   There is a heavy whimsy I felt.  I felt this with the beautiful silverware, old atlases, broken clocks, and playing cards.  It was like saying goodbye to another world.

And that’s when I felt like I got some serious shape to what the next six months will be about.  I want to work in many different mediums.  Metal, Wood, Paper, vinyl, fabric, wire…and within these they all must be Black, white or gray.  And i want to create a world. where time hiccups and magical romance breathes.  I can’t freaking’ wait!

And so far, I got 160 lbs of trash!

Day One

My first week gleaning was INCREDIBLE!!!  I went on a Tuesday, which was rumored wouldn’t be “a good day.”  (Saturday is the coveted gleaning day because of all the weekend consumption).  But I found Tuesday to be fantastic.  Magical even!

I didn’t go with an idea or plan in mind.  I just loaded a few empty boxes in my car and drove optimistically to the transfer station.

They cleverly monitor how much trash is being dumped.  The mathematical virgo in me LOVES that.  I nervously weighed in.  Wondering what I would find.  Wondering if I should have come with some kind of plan, or anything.  I could feel the stiffness of my work shoes growing as I approached the scale and found a parking spot.

James, from Recology was there to help me with my first day.  I think he was more enthusiastic about trash than I– and I’m really nutty about it 🙂

In the first few moments I was there, a large truck was parked dumping these amazing “treasures” amongst the trash.  James and I were ducking the on coming pitches of bottles, photo albums, old books, silverware, cigar boxes, board games, and more.  Every time we picked something from the ground the other was calling, “OH my gosh, look at this.”  I was quickly filling my cart up with goodies– not really knowing what I was going to do with them, but knew they were too cool to pass up.

The pieces James and I were picking up, seemed too nice to me for art materials.  I kept thinking no one would believe that this was “Trash” that I had gotten from the dump.  It felt so sad to me that these items weren’t given to friends, or to consignment stores, the goodwill, or even put on ebay.  I am used to collecting materials that have no use left, that are broken, or can’t be recycled.  But to see so much stuff that still has value to it–that doesn’t need any overhaul work done to it to make it valuable again was shocking and sad to me.  It seemed like cheating to use this items for the residency– but I certainly couldn’t NOT take them.  So I did.

Day one:  I got 60 lbs worth of “trash”

follow the garbage truck to your dreams

this is what i’ve been saying since i headed out HWY 30 to my initial interview that was held at the transfer station.  i had gotten behind a garbage truck and not being totally familiar with the area, and not wanting to consult the iphone, just stayed behind it.  “i’m comfortable here”, i thought, “yeah, this is exactly where i belong.”

this has been a severely different experience than my past dealings with refuse.  its the west coast version. literally a different side of the coin.


1. Rather than litter, something i defined as almost “lost” garbage in a way- the garbagiest of garbage and the most thrown away- thrown away so much that one doesn’t even bother to throw it away- unintentional slime left behind the snail of society- i am dealing with the intentionally discarded.  not only are people collecting, piling, carting and disposing, they are paying to remove once and for all these objects from their lives.  a significant amount of effort is going into the disappearance of these objects compared to the lack of effort involved in litter piling up haphazardly along the roadside. * interesting side note: the homeless encampment under the burnside bridge just up and disappeared.  They were squatting- with what I imagine was a relative degree of comparative comfort (each had a mattress they were sleeping on, they had an area of chairs and  a cooking area)- and were kind of settling into the area.  I had gotten used to and familiar with their presence and almost miss them now and wonder where they went and hope they are ok.  two homeless men were shot a couple of weeks ago under the morrisson bridge and i wonder if that incident didn’t motivate the relocation. discarded.

Difference #2. Privilege. Yeah. when i was collecting litter to make past sculptures I had two different social structures to compare myself to.  The first was the “adopt-a-highway” volunteers and the second was regional inmates.  The second scenario I saw with much more frequency on the east coast, the orange-vested inmates would come out soon after the fruit trees blossomed.  The snow in the east acted as a temporary cryogenic laboratory and as it melted, the residue from the last 4 months of snowpack reemerged.

I aligned myself with blue-collar laborers and tasked myself with transformation by turning the no-longer-valued into art through labor. I felt as if I were challenging an entire system of values and ideals.

While that challenge remains in this project, it is an elevated challenge, made valuable by the system that I am working within.  The GLEAN project has already disrupted the system by working with Recology and METRO.  It isn’t up to me to create a new perspective within a failed infrastructure (waste) because others have already redefined a more sustainable approach to our residue.  I am not clawing at nor lamenting over a societal failure. Rather, I have been asked to join forces with and celebrate a new approach.  I have been given the rare privilege to glean- a golden ticket to see the inside of the candy factory.

First Finds

I’ve Gleaned four times in the past two weeks.  Some days are more fruitful than others, but I’ve already collected a sizable swath of materials that I’m excited about.  So far I’ve been drawn to gift bags, wrapping paper,  and labels from dog food containers.

Last Saturday I arrived at Metro Central Station around noon and ran into Sarah.  Below is a picture of her standing in front of what she collected that day.

First GLEANing “Unsurpassed”

I arrived shortly after 9am on Saturday. Jose warmly welcomed me, I put on my safety gear, and he and I talked as we walked from the office to the tipping floor.

I discovered the GLEANer bay where artists’ had already collected materials. I thought of us as magpies salvaging the abject to bring it back to life.

After collecting a cart, I walked around the tipping floor. Captivated by colorful crushed cans scattered around the floor, I settled into the metals bay, grabbed an old broom, then swept them up from under metal car parts and crushed metal window frames. The big folded and crushed metal looked like John Chamberlain’s raw material and chunks of Frank Stella’s 80s “Maximalist” relief bricollage. The bay smelled like spray paint and motor oil. I collected only neatly compressed cans smashed vertically, and sorted them on the cart by color in three columns—red, yellow, blue. My favorite cans were compressed neatly in a circle the circumference of soda can. I discarded cans crushed into jagged messy ellipses. The neatly compressed collection (which I transported in a perfectly sized Nike “Air Force” shoebox gleaned from the cardboard bay) is now degassing on the front porch.

It was particularly satisfying to climb on the pile (mountain) of waste where people dump. Andrew and I went between trucks and climbed carefully onto the pile. Things caught our eyes. I found some fragments of an old red, blue, black and white canvas sign, and pulled out the word “unsurpassed.” I felt like Templeton in “Charlotte’s Web” when he found the word “radiant” in the back of the woodshed!

In one quick glance at the long mountain of garbage against the wall, I saw twelve mattresses, four baby pools, and five crushed recliners, mixed with smashed drywall, roofing material, and garbage bags. Every half an hour or so, a construction front-loader drove up to the pile to compress it up against the wall. After the pile was pushed back, some of the things I touched were out of reach near the top of the pile. I saw a recliner get pushed up to the top of the pile, then roll down broken and smashed.

In addition to the crushed cans, I collected some clothes, mostly socks, pillowcases, a few pieces of cardboard, two pieces of foam, and some other crushed metal.