Ilya Kabakov and Garbage

I am reading about the work of Russian Artist Ilya Kabakov who has worked with garbage in his art practice for several decades. Here are two excepts I found particularly poignant from the text.

“[Garbage]…cannot be reduced to a concept nor can death overcome it, and every idea is rendered stupid beside it: it is like a swamp in which both art and philosophy are submerged…Garbage subverts and deconstructs the usual distinction between memory and forgetting, between death and survival. Thus garbage threatens art but simultaneously provides it with an opportunity.”

“There is an internal kinship between art and garbage: the work of art and the piece of garbage are equally useless, non-functional, superfluous things, peripheral to the universal traffic in commodities. While artwork stays in a museum, where it is stored, catalogued and annotated, the piece of garbage is thrown away and disappears somewhere ‘outside’ away from our cultural living space. Garbage forms the the great Other of our culture: it is dangerous, poisonous, hostile to humanity, and must be destroyed…At the same time, all cultural forms and products face a final choice after their inevitable historical death” either they are turned into museum pieces or they end up on the ‘garbage heap of history’…Thus archeological museums are filled with items dug up from the garbage pits of earlier times. And modern artists make copious use of everyday detritus of our own time practicing a kind of archaeology of modern life. But the relationship between art and garbage cannot solely be seen as salvation from garbage through art. On occasion garbage can rescue art as well.”

Garbage Friends and Recommended Reading

This past Sunday was the first weekend day I have been able to make it to the transfer station to glean.  It was very busy at times and then very slow at others, I think partially due to the crazy weather that day.  At one point the skies grew very dark and moments later it was down pouring and hailing!


inadvertent Pollack


Best Garbage Friends!


mongo Recommended reading!  “Mongo: Adventures in Trash” by Ted Botha.  If you’re interested in reading about what it’s like to be a gleaner, a picker, a collector, a reuse advocate, or whatever you want to call it, you should pick up this book.  I purchased it a few years ago, but just finally cracked it open the other day.  I haven’t finished it yet (so don’t tell me how it ends!) but I would recommend it.  It’s a quick read, but an excellent survey of the culture and history of trash and the people afflicted with the desire to make the most of materials and the pursuit of the diamond in the rough!

April 25, 2014 Studio Visits

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A crate of trophies at Sarah’s studio.

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And a bowl of magic.


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A photo of (from left) Sarah, Whitney, Francesca, Alyssa and Amy at Whitney’s studio visit. It was a great day visiting everyone’s studio and talking about what we have gleaned so far, what we are making and plans for the exhibition. It was inspirational to see so many amazing artist spaces in one day.

Vanquishing the dump rubble!

Sarah and Michelle1

Together, Sarah Wolf-Newlands, GLEAN 2012, and Michelle Liccardo vanquish the dump rubble (which could be a name of a garage band or one of those phrases people challenge others to save 5 times quickly).  Also, can’t help but think that it looks like Michelle is holding up a scalp trophy from a marauding remodel…


April 20, 2014 studio shots

4_20 paint Thank you to Hazardous Materials at the Transfer Station for this paint, my collection has grown thanks to my last gleaning this past Friday. The kind people over there even set aside a 60lb bag of concrete for me. Ask and you shall receive! Alyssa and I had fun looking through their art supplies.

IMG_4034 Here’s a shot of a couple of the small sculptures that I made with papercrete and metal, with paint. My palette is somewhat organized but my theme is loss of control or ‘harmonious chaos through painting and sculpture.’

I am having fun working with the materials that I can glean from the transfer station but it is a different way of working in the studio. Much of the material must be reconstructed/deconstructed or used as a raw ingredient to make another material.  IMG_4038This is a studio shot of one table of fun.

The large papercrete vessel is in production.IMG_4036 A 3-4 foot tall vessel made of wire/metals/papercrete. This is the largest sculpture in production so far. The process of making papercrete has expanded; to make more in a batch I shred more paper into a bucket, pour boiling water over and let sit for 1-3 days. Then I use a drill with a cement mixer type attachment to pulp it, then strain, then combine to make a half of a 5 gal bucket of papercrete. I’m happy that I’ve gotten pretty good at the process, it’s going faster and this large piece is getting built. Although, I am unable to see yet how it will turn out. It could be a great piece, or, I could hate it. Just going through the process of building something of this scale with papercrete is exciting to me and I am grateful to the Glean Residence-ship for the opportunity to explore papercrete. IMG_4039IMG_4040

There is still a hole in the bottom of it that allowed me to work at its base, that’s the fan part that I used. I think that it may look like a very large pinch pot. This piece is going to have some weight to it, but it will be lighter than a giant concrete vessel because of the papercrete that I’m using. The stuff dries super tough and stiff, like concrete, but not as brittle. And, I’m told, you can drill, sand and saw it when dry. Can’t wait to see how this comes out.

Sad Santa and a Seismograph

seismograph the pile sad santa


Great GLEANings today at the transfer station.  I’m most excited about the 100 lbs. of brand new Hydrocal I picked up!  Unfortunately, bags of Hydrocal are not that interesting to look at, so enjoy these pictures of a sad Santa, a Seismograph (what?) and the pile.


Looking for mirrors and I round train tracks…

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I never know what I’ll find when heading to the transfer station.  I can prepare a wish list in my head, and surprisingly enough, it will probably show up at some time…you just never know when exactly.  On my first GLEANing, I was only looking for anything reflective (mirrors, glass, plexiglass), of which I found just a little.  BUT, I did find an armful of train tracks from a model train set.  Who knew that I needed these? I sure didn’t.


April 8, 2014 Train yards, tools and wire skeleton for vessel

4_4My last trip to the Transfer Station was more spring like. I always enjoy passing the train yards on the way to deep northwest. I am gleaning different things now, widening my definition for what useable art materials are. I’m taking home hard plastic planters and crates to alter and encase in papercrete.IMG_4009

Here I’m using some pristine 1/4″ board to make two panels for paintings. I found a full 4×8′ sheet of it and many smaller scraps without a scratch on them. There is soo much wood at the transfer station, I could make panels for painters all day long.IMG_4010I like that the support for this panel has branded information on it. I think I’ll keep it there.



Also working on a large vessel, here’s the skeleton.. I gleaned wire mesh from old window screens, a deconstructed fire place screen, some chicken wire, other wire screen and all sorts of tying wire; galvanized steel, copper, scrap pieces.. The bottom support for this is part of a fan that I found. Perfect!

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

The money in this photo was fake money, but I have found $12.26 in actual cash so far.

The money in this photo is fake. 

“Everything will now come your way.”
-the most terrifying fortune cookie fortune I have ever received

That phrase from a fortune cookie I got after dinner one night has been on my mind a lot over the past month.

The thing about the transfer station is that after I acclimated to the sounds and smells and bizarre combinations of objects that form the initial assault on the senses, I’ve begun to dwell more darkly on the whole process of acquiring and disposing of objects.

The first thing you should probably know is that I’m a bit of a giddy hoarder. As an artist that works with found objects as a primary medium, I see the artistic potential in everything. Even before I came across the GLEAN project, there was the distinct possibility that I would never be able to properly use up all of the items that I’ve collected in my studio over the years.

And now I am swimming in an onslaught of opportunity. In the past month I’ve pulled out vanloads of amazing things for future use. Motorcycles, bicycles, vintage clutches, tools and frames, canvases and paint, enough lumber to put a new deck on my studio, bags full of neatly organized hardware, the big plastic knuckle off a McDonald’s Playplace, you name it… I’ve easily collected over a ton of objects so far and it’s only been one month.

I’m high on trash.

And yet, once I watched about the tenth load of the contents of someone’s life be bulldozed under a stack of cat-clawed couches and waterlogged construction debris, I began to have serious second thoughts about the idea of owning anything at all.

Objects do so much more than take up space in your life, they occupy your time. I’ve had the unsettling realization that every single object that I spend time shopping for (or digging in the trash for) has it’s own needs. Each object that must be cleaned and organized, moved from place to place and considered for artistic potential sucks away a little bit of my life that I’ll never get back. I’m developing an allergy to knickknacks.

Hopefully the art that comes out will be worth it.

And hey, the whole residency is over on August 8 with the big show at Disjecta, so you know I’ll be back at the dump tomorrow.