One of the first clear memories I have of reclamation in an urban environment, is of climbing into a dumpster when I was six. Dumpsters are the classic reclamation spots, if you know the right time, and location, hot food out of the deli is available for free. Fruits and vegetables not worthy of the counter space due to blemishes, in other words fresh raw produce, can be carted away by the box load. Wine, beer, trampolines, bicycles, or gold. My brother and I went into this one with ease. What I remember most about that time, was how it felt to find the paint color demo strips, and how much I liked them even though they were boring.
I grew up spending a month a year cleaning up a festival so dumpsters were a familiar entity. Every last scrap of anything synthetic was to be picked from the dust, and removed from the site. Needles, nails, and nasties. Imagine finding anything under the sun, including things you don’t even recognize, spread out over a couple hundred acres of forest. Ground scores became widely known about over time unfortunately, and other savvy people began waking up pre-dawn, searching at the break of day for the forgotten treasures. Visualize 50,000 people partying for a weekend straight every year in the same place, and how much trash that generates.
My father is an entrepreneur with it. His economic serenity and flair have their roots in reclaimed materials. He taught me about the value of materials, how they are made, wasted, and discarded into the natural world with abandonment. How by design we consume more than we need, to the point of neglecting the materials we own, and wasting what’s left. As a culture we build things to own rather than share, and his examples of recycling to share, inspire me emulate him.
Here is the evaluation process I try to perform when I debate on reclamation. First comes the test of structural integrity. Most of the time your able to see if something has this with a glance. Sometimes it’s a crack, others a twist, a janky-ness, a rot spot, a rust spot, a tear. Look hard enough and you might find a bug eating it. You get better at it by dismantling and separating the parts, in order to recycle them. Is it wet? Does it stink? How old is it? How much is it worth? How much energy will it take to make it worth using? Is it more valuable as separate parts, or as a whole? Can I sell it right away? Do I want it? Do I have space for it? Is my mom home? Can I sneak it in tonight without her seeing it? Can I give it to her? Does anybody else need it? In many ways the process is more fun than the actual acquisition, and thus began a theme of ″Beautiful Trash″ art for me. After a few years of being excited about this type of sculpture, planning acquisitions of clock dumpsters, and visualizing what I needed for each piece, I became frustrated with it. I began to notice that my workspace was brimming with garbage, and cluttered to the point of inefficiency. It was a relief to clean it out and be more methodical about my process, but I’m on auto pilot with some types of materials, and can’t pass them up.
I started investigating how machines are made out of curiosity, for example, the remote control car I got for Christmas when I was four. That one never needed batteries, in fact, I fixed it forever. Towards my teens I learned how to demolish buildings. This is particularly fun. Wild, destructive, primal, nasty, dangerous, and packed with sweat. Too much fun can be had, and the choice of music is the key. ACDC will really liven things up, and somebody might get hurt. Fiddle and banjo are a different matter all together. Put those beats on, and the work will speed up, but in a lively aware kinda way. Then it gets really dangerous and fairly controlled, which to me became really cool fast.
Thinking about all of the materials I have hoarded away brought me to a conclusion today. I love reclaiming materials because the work creates more work. The materials must be processed, stored, altered, repaired, and made into something else. The options are endless, combine rope, glass, wire, bolts, nuts, washers and creativity. What do you need? It’s likely we could make something else that would be just as good. Take shelter for instance. We’ve been building structures for thousands of years with every useful natural element we can find. Why would I throw away a functional device, so I could buy a bright shiny new one? It pleases me more to make do with something slightly damaged, by fixing it to work for me.
No wonder my art became many sketches all over the page. I have an aversion to wasting a full sheet on one image if the rest of the page isn’t filled. In fact, I draw on the back too. The separate pictures overlap at times, which leads me to switching mediums. I’ve always been thrilled by multi-media applications. Penciling in a design, erasing, giving it details, then inking it. Oil crayons are entertaining, with their bright colors, and chaotic lines. A picture then goes through stages like a cast bronze wax. It metamorphosis into something completely different. An example of this, was when I built a storage room for a customer. Sheet-rock hanging takes a lot longer when your using the lift as an easel before you put the pieces up. They were the perfect canvas, four foot wide by eight foot long white paper sheet-goods. About a week later I brought some kids into the room as it got closer to finish, and gave them the opportunity to draw or right on the wall. Our scrawls and drawings are still there because the storage room didn’t require paint, as raw sheet-rock was good enough.
This isn’t really done, but my editor will see this and crack a grin, so I’m going to wind this out now. I might never fix it, but I’m satisfied to have voiced so much about the subject. I guess it won’t matter in the future posts to me either. Seems like a book could be written about any one of the subjects I’ve placed in the titles of my posts. I hope you enjoy them, it’s been fun to write. 🙂