A year back I received a personal message from a friend telling me that I have to see Nick Gentry’s work, they said, “trust me, you’re going to go nuts.” When I clicked the link to the London-based artist’s website I was amazed. In the next week I received somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen more e-mails and messages about Nick and his artwork. Nick Gentry creates his art from floppy discs, cassette tapes, Polaroid’s, and many other forms of archaic media. The discs and cartridges are arranged and painted over with many of the pieces still labeled saying things like “Audio Galaxy” or “Modem Upgrade: Laptop.” Media formats fall into disuse so rapidly these days that artists like Nick should have no trouble continuing to inject the permanence of art into these little outmoded bits of plastic.
Passionate and busy are two excellent words to describe another PASG favorite, Shari Elf, who I was lucky enough to be able to exchange e-mails with recently. Shari considers upcycling to be “a philosophical way of looking at (her art),” but prefers to tell people that she makes art from trash.
When I asked her where her tireless inspiration comes from she explains, “I have always found trash more interesting, a more engaging place to start a creation for me, as an old board or smashed can already has some wonderful things going on with it unlike a boring white canvas.” Her junk creations have been embraced by television and film actors, comedians, and famous art collectors. Her work has also been featured on film. Shari enjoys the freedom and creativity found in junk; however, for her it’s not about trying to be environmentally aware, it is about having fun.
The examination of artists working in the field of found art and upcycling continues with Sandhi Schimmel Gold. She is adamantly an “upcycler” – Sandhi does not make mixed media, recycled, or junk art. “Upcycling, definitely,” is how Sandhi described her art to me by phone, “I don’t make collage.” Sandhi sees her work as “using something of no value to make something of great value.” Sandhi uses the most ephemeral of ephemera to make her art: junk mail, calendars, and packaging. She makes mosaics which she paints over in a process very similar to that developed by Picasso and Georges Braque which transforms paper waste into modern art. Sandhi’s art creates no waste and is totally hand-made from beginning to end. When you Google image search “upcycled art,” it is Sandhi’s art that will be the first that you see, at least for now.
Like most of the artists in these articles I utilize what is accessible in an attempt to create something exciting and new, while minimizing the need for fresh materials. Just like Shari, I am more inspired by junk than by a blank canvas, and I agree with all the artists’ need to create something that is timeless from objects that most people just consider useless. I am not trying to convert the entire art world into upcyclers; however, I would love for artists to see all of these talented individuals working with repurposed materials and think of how they can do more with less.
by James Meyer.