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Trashy Art: San Francisco Artists Get Creative at the Dump


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By Jake Richardson
January 21, 2012 

SAN FRANCISCO, CA– Recology’s Artist in Residence program had an exhibition of recycled art made from materials scavenged from the San Francisco dump on January 20th and 21st. The featured artists were Ethan Estess, Terry Berlier, and Donna Anderson Kam.

Estess is studying marine conservation and communication at Stanford University and his art work focused on marine wildlife and ocean-related issues. Of particular note was his large whale tail covered in rope titled Last Dive of the Farallones: 100,000 Marine Mammals Killed Each Year. Another one of his sculptures features a toy shark completely entangled in fishing line. He says he wants his art to “create an emotional connection between people and the environment because once that connection is established, people can change their behavior.”

Terry Berlier is a visual artist and professor of art at Stanford.
“I came here in the spirit of experimentation, and that is necessary for communication when there is so much thrown away,” Berlier says.
She filled a shopping cart with sculptures she made from wet cement she found. The cement sculptures express the heaviness of personal consumption, both for shoppers and the environment. She also filled a birdcage with the cement in reference to a situation she read in Garbage Land from Colombia. One part of the book describes birds that became so obese from eating from a dump that they could no longer fly.

Berlier also made a musical device by connecting 88 piano keys on a recycled wooden spool and routing them through a laptop she also found in the dump. Electronic speakers sounded the notes when the keys were pressed.

Another one of her large sculptures was based on the historical design of an acoustic locator, which was a sound amplification device used typically in war times long ago. Her design, however, was associated with one used for listening to balloon ascents.

Donna Anderson Kam mainly works mainly with two-dimensional art, and most of her exhibited work was color drawings done in pastel, chalk and paper she found mixed into all the garbage in the facility. You wouldn’t know the source of the paper just from looking at her beautiful images. Some of them reference the collection of thrown away materials, in scenes such as a young man next to a pile of old rubber tires. Her series at the exhibition was titled “Little Hollywood.” She says the process of discovery and experimentation with the dump materials was like a fun game.

All of the art work by the three artists in residence could be shown in museums, and it might be effective to include their show, or part of it, in facilities such as Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco.

Recology will have more exhibitions by their artists in residence throughout the coming months.

© 2012 SCGH, LLC.


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