Thursday, April 24, 2014
Upcycling and the Spirit in Materiality
This piece looks so funny to me this small. In reality it is quite monumental, especially considering the materials from which it is made. It is about 4.5' x 6.5' and it is made from humble chicken wire, newspaper and wall paper paste. Yup, you guessed it, this painting is on a papier mache base.
Upcycling is a very interesting concept in terms of using materials that sounds new but really isn't. For hundreds of years artists have been taking simple materials like used paper and making it into fine art and crafts. If you are unfamiliar with the term upcycling, it means taking ordinary materials that could have been viewed as rubbish and making something unique and artistic with them. Some people use upcycling to make functional pieces for their home. It is a transformative process.
I find that working with upcycling, in the form of papier mache is a spiritual. I must gather my materials, sometimes huge craft paper flour bags from bakeries or grocers, and go to the hardware store for the wallpaper paste and chicken wire. Then I go through quite an extensive process to turn those materials into works of art. It can take weeks or even months to reach my goals. I tap into my imagination for my organic abstractions and do spiritual journeying as well.
This piece shown above contains devas, which are a type of nature spirit, land formations from shamanic journeying and the types of lifeforms you find in the middle and upper world of the shaman. There is great satisfaction in gathering more materials for free than spending money on buying them. There is also a magickal quality in using my imagination and spirituality to conjure a unique piece of art, through the process called upcycling.
A few years back, I was a member of a group based in New York called Art from Detritus. All of us were dedicated to making meaningful pieces of art out of throw-away materials or in other words, trash. While working as a part of that group I made this piece but it was too large to ship for our exhibition at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The piece called "Fairy Tale" that I shared on this blog a few days ago was also a part of that movement. It used kitchen rubbish for it's painting surface, such as the pulp cleaned out from my juicer, cleaned and fortified so that it could last for many years.
Upcycling is a way of re-imagining ourselves as artists. It is earth-friendly, sustainable, green and related to recycling, though there are subtle differences. The next time you are about to throw something away, re-think your decision and consider what it might become if you put your imagination to use.
A to Z Challenge--"U" is for Upcycling