“Magical Recycling”

Car Debris and Broken Balloons (from my 2008 MOCAD exhibit)

Car Debris and Broken Balloons (from my 2008 MOCAD exhibit)

I have an huge collection of found objects/found materials.  Many artists have something of the “pack rat” in them.  One model in this is the great Joseph Cornell.  He pioneered the use of found objects arranged inside of boxes.  These formed most most astounding and surreal configurations.

He’d build his own boxes and fill them carefully.  I was inspired by photos of his studio.  He had such a wide variety of stuff, sorted out so neatly.

I worked at “Crowley’s” (a Detroit Department store) for fourteen years.  In that time, I managed to save hundreds of coin roll boxes.  They came in four sizes: penny, nickle, dime and quarter.  These sturdy boxes proved perfect for storing the lion’s share of my found object collection.

Natural Debris and a Shredded Money Archive (from my 2008 MOCAD Exhibit)

Natural Debris and a Shredded Money Archive (from my 2008 MOCAD Exhibit)

I also noted that, what formerly held $$$$$, now was used to store broken toys, dryer lint, wasp’s nests, streetlight glass, thorny twigs and so on.  I also have a collection of shredded and torn money. 

I guarantee that I didn’t tear up or shred any of this money myself.  Most of it is shredded by the U.S. Mint and then sold off as souvenirs.  The sales people used to save ripped corners of bills for me, when they’d turn up in the safe.

My 2006 "Dally in the Alley" Poster

My 2006 "Dally in the Alley" Poster

It seems that Detroit artists have a very high ratio of using found materials in their work.  Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project applied thousands of found objects to abandoned houses, trees and more.  His work adds to this atmosphere here,  of “magical recycling.”

My found object archives is an intuitive means of recycling.  A precise, ongoing accumulation takes the form of a series of “pile-ups.” 

I use these materials in many ways.  I make collages, shadow boxes, assemblages (nailed or glued to wood)  and more.  I also enjoy stuffing clear plastic “blister packs” with a variety of stuff.

I’ve always sorted these collections by substance: glass, wood, paper, plastic and metal or the main categories.

Thus, going  to the recycling center creates a sense of deja vu.  I sort everything out by substance and place it in the proper bin.  Plastic is even sorted out by the type of plastic.  My neighborhood center is very communal as various people unload their unwanteds (and save them from ending up being burned or going to a landfill).

This reminds me of one of my old dreams: to have a sort of artist’s collage-found object “swap meet.”  We could trade our treasures with each other.  One person might have a large cache of doll parts, while someone else might have extra wallpaper sample books.  It could be played like some surrealist game: part potlatch and festival, part treasure hunt.






Other things collected: feathers, plastic letters, stones, rusty metal, seed pods, cotton, marbles, steel wool, bottle caps, broken clocks, string, foil, rubber bands and much much more.


2 Responses to ““Magical Recycling””

  1. Rick Lieder Says:

    Perhaps a swap meet for lives, you be me for awhile, and I’ll be you. (Hi Paul!)

  2. Objects: Found, created, arranged « for art and artists Says:

    […] https://maugre22.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/magical-recycling/  […]

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