B/D Best of 2010 – Green Art: 10 Artists Working with Recycled Materials

David Edgar, "Green Fiesta Jellyfish Lamp"

David Edgar, "Green Fiesta Jellyfish Lamp"

The people of the United States alone toss out millions of plastic bottles every hour, and in a year, enough plastic film to shrink wrap Texas (which would be both a hilarious and horrifying feat.) Everyone knows it’s important to recycle, but it’s often hard to realize the consequences of forgetting about one little bottle; maybe we should consider not buying this stuff in the first place. (I drink out of the tap all the time, heck, I’d drink out of the hose.) Without getting on a soapbox, the following artists have made powerful statements about the ways in which we waste…. by re-using materials that would otherwise be thrown away, and removing paper and plastics completely from the recycling loop…. as even the act of recycling uses massive amounts of energy.

Aurora Robson

Aurora Robson estimates that so far, she has salvaged about 30,000 plastic bottles, preventing them from entering our landfills, oceans, and the costly recycling system. With this seemingly cold and unyielding material, Robson masterfully creates sweeping organic sculptures and installations that hint at sea life and space. In addition to her three dimensional works, she also works in collage, using her own junk-mail as her medium.

Aurora Robson, "Vortexas", 2008

Aurora Robson, "Vortexas", 2008

Julia Anne Goodman

Another fan of junk-mail as material, Julia Goodman creates massive sculptures of recycled paper that’s been sculpted and cut, and mashed into a pulp before being reformed. She began making her own paper in 2003, which eventually led to her fascination with recycling paper in her art works. Goodman’s “Certain is Nothing Now”, is crafted entirely from locally collected blue junk mail, and shaped into a tornado-like vortex that likens paper waste to the incredible mess and destruction left behind by one of those terrible storms.

Julia Anne Goodman, "Certain is Nothing Now", 2009

Julia Anne Goodman, "Certain is Nothing Now", 2009

Miwa Koizumi

With a heat gun and some trashed water bottles, Miwa Koizumi created a small aquarium of “PET”s (PET standing for the polyethylene terephthalate plastic material from which her sea creatures are made), playfully “adopting” abandoned recyclables. Though her creatures seem light and playful, they are perhaps are intended to reference the countless plastics that end up in our oceans, and become artificial staples of our coastlines.

Miwa Koizumi, "PET", 2005

Miwa Koizumi, "PET", 2005

Sumer Erek

Sumer Erek‘s “Newspaper House” is exactly that: a house constructed out of used newspapers. To him, a house is a “repository for nationhood, identity and belonging”; in using old newspapers as materials, not only did he grant new life to the tired paper, but he also used the words and images they contained to become part of the structure that would house the identities of all those who had lived through the experiences the papers described.

Sumer Erek, "Newspaper House", 2008

Sumer Erek, "Newspaper House", 2008

Caroline Saul

Caroline Saul‘s passion for transforming discarded objects destined for landfills has led her to create a whole series of “Bulbous forms” made of melted, reformed, and stained plastic materials. Through their transformation, they obtain a delicate softness that the hard plastics lacked in their first lives.

Caroline Saul, "Bulbous Bowl", 2010

Caroline Saul, "Bulbous Bowl", 2010

Jill Townsley

Nearly 10,000 plastic spoons and a third as many rubber bands went into Jill Townsley’s “Spoons”. Where normally a disposable spoon is only eaten with once before being discarded, her massive pyramid will last to demonstrate the sheer volume of what to the entire world may seem like only a small amount of waste. Her site also has a time-lapse video of the structure collapsing into a pile, not unlike a miniature landfill.

Jill Townsley, "Spoons", 2008

Jill Townsley, "Spoons", 2008

Kathrine Harvey

Kathrine Harvey‘s scupltural installations are composed of empty bottles and packages, and other cheap items intended for single use. Plastic trays cascade out of the top of her “Fountain”, while in a similar installation, a deluge of empty milk cartons and soda bottles spill from ceiling to floor. Somewhat haphazard and never forced, her works mimic the natural arrangement of waste accumulated by humans.

Kathrine Harvey, "Fountain", 2006

Kathrine Harvey, "Fountain", 2006

Stuart Haygarth

Stuart Haygarth states his work is about granting “banal and overlooked objects a new significance”. He collects everything from plastic cups to old eyeglass lenses and taillights and transforms them into useful and aesthetically stunning objects, (most often, lighting). Seeing beyond the limits of the narrow scope of an object’s original function characterizes his perspective on creating.

Stuart Haygarth, "Optical", 2009

Stuart Haygarth, "Optical", 2007

Cracking Art Group

Renzo Nucara, Carlo Rizzetti, Marco Veronese, Alex Angi, Kicco, and William Sweetlowe together comprise the Cracking Art group, and collaborate together to create large recycled plastic installations which are placed in public spaces. Their process consists of repeatedly melting down recycled plastic, and casting new animal forms in the hopes of establishing a more permanent use for the disposable materials.

Cracking Art Group, "Sentinelle", 2009

Cracking Art Group, "Sentinelle", 2009

David Edgar

David Edgar‘s colorful Plastiquarium is collection of fish, jellyfish, and other sea creatures fashioned from plastic bottles, most often, detergent bottles, harvested by Edgar on his morning walks. After working for most of his career with steel, plastic was a much easier material for him to work with, for most of his pieces he uses little more than a pair of sharp scissors.

David Edgar, "Shimmering Red Runner"

David Edgar, "Shimmering Red Runner"


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  • ester

    How did you miss the junk mail portraits by sandhi schimmel gold http://www.schimmelart.com?

  • Amir

    thanks for the link ester we’ll check it out!

  • http://www.funkydory.com.au Jacq Chorlton

    Hi, I won the peoples choice award at Rockingham Castaways Recycled material sculpture competition with my giant 5 metre sculpture of an octopus made entirely out of woven plastic bags…was entitled ’20,000 bags under the sea’

  • Prithiviraj P. Kashyap

    Nice art work , plz send me regular newsletters.
    Thanks.