The spirit of rejuvenation, rebirth and environmental conservation come to life in palpable artworks on view at two shows opening Friday, Aug. 8 at Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and Nisus Gallery, 8371 N. Interstate Ave., Portland, Oregon. An opening reception for the shows is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8.
GLEAN, opening at Disjecta, is a group show featuring five emerging and mid-career artists – Sarah Bernstein, Francesca Berrini, Alyssa Kail, Michelle Liccardo, and Whitney Nye – displaying sculptures, collages and bas-relief works. Each artist uses discarded objects, or trash, and reinvents these found materials as the basis of their artwork. All of the materials used by the artists were taken from Metro’s Central Transfer Station in Northwest Portland.
Opening simultaneously at Nisus Gallery, located next door to Disjecta, is a solo show, “Waste Not,” by Portland artist Natalie Sept. Sept, too, was given access to the Metro Central Transfer Station and spent many hours there in order to create a series of paintings that capture the seemingly uneventful daily drama of employees who work there receiving and separating the dizzying volume of discards that migrate through the busy transfer station.
Together, the two exhibits aim to raise public awareness regarding our collective trash habits as well as ideas about garbage as a resource. They also celebrate the different communities brought together because of this single cause – artists, government agencies and their employees, conservationists, and many more.
“The Portland region is one of the nation’s leaders in the conservation and sustainability movement,” says Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette. “It also has a flourishing cultural life. Those two worlds come together in this show that provokes viewers to think about how much waste we produce and why we should care about it so much.”
Collette points out that Portland-area residents and businesses generate more than 2.1 million tons of both garbage and recyclables. About 60 percent of that figure is recovered for recycling, composting and energy. The remaining 40 percent, or roughly 800,000 tons, gets sent to landfills.
“Our goal as a region is to reach zero waste,” Collette says. “But until then, programs like GLEAN and Natalie’s show remind us just how much treasure and resources can be found in the things we discard.”
GLEAN is an environmental arts and education program launched in 2010 to inspire creative thinking about consumption and reuse issues. The program is a collaborative effort between Metro; Recology, an employee-owned company that provides collection services and resource recovery solutions; and crackedpots, an environmental arts organization that also administers the GLEAN program.
According to Mike Sangiacomo, President and CEO of Recology, "GLEAN is one of the many ways in which we educate residents and businesses we serve to be wise users of society's products and to be responsible when disposing of things they no longer need. GLEAN artists are the educators and best communicators of our vision to see a world without waste."
Since 2010, GLEAN shows have selected several artists through a juried process to bring attention to waste consumption and reuse issues. Artists are awarded stipends and six months of access privilege in which to scavenge discarded material at the Metro Transfer Station. The artists have a shared blog which they use to talk about their experiences and give a behind-the-scene look at their process.
This year, a jury of arts professionals and environmentalists picked the five artists, each of whom presents a unique take on the possibilities of trash. Each turns discards into magic through their art.
Mixed-media artist Bernstein makes bas-relief sculptures and mixed-media works that infuse pop cultural idioms. Berrini exhibits collages that directly address themes of material reinvention. Kail presents sculptures that utilize abstract photography to comment on the nature of visual perception and visual distortion. Liccardo blends classical Greek and contemporary iconography in process-oriented totems reminiscent of archaeological relics. Nye makes wood-based sculptures that make us think about the industrial nature of materials and how they are transformed from their natural state. Learn more about the artists and get a behind-the-scenes look at their experience on their shared blog: gleanpdx.org
Sept’s show was administered and funded by Metro through its Let’s Talk Trash program, an event series to raise awareness about how the Portland metropolitan region manages its garbage and the choices we face for the future. Sept works primarily as a painter and had a much talked about solo exhibit in 2013 at The Cleaners venue near The Ace Hotel. That show, too, operated as a snapshot of a specific sub-culture – dishwashers at Portland-area restaurants. This time, Sept will use her observational eye and realist painting technique to bring to life in vivid paintings the goings on at a resource recovery facility.
Disjecta, 8371 N. Interstate Ave., Portland
6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8
Nisus Gallery, 8371 N. Interstate Ave., Portland
6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8
Both exhibitions run Aug. 8 through 31 at Disjecta and Nisus Gallery. Hours for both spaces are noon to 5 p.m., Friday through Sunday.
About the artists
Sarah Bernstein: One of a legion of artists who moved to Portland from out of state the past 15 years, Sarah is a mixed-media artist who works predominantly with found materials and imagery in order to create narrative-based pieces. Her artwork explores a number of themes: human archetypes, traditions of storytelling and the relationship between word and image. Sarah re-interprets landfills and waste systems as modern mythical landscapes –metaphors of what we, as a society, wish to abandon, release or forget.
Sarah received her BFA in Printmaking from Washington University in St. Louis and has participated in several group exhibitions and one solo exhibition since 2005. In GLEAN, she’s created a series of bas-relief sculptures that investigate contemporary female identity. The materials used are objects that have either been manufactured expressly for, or used by, women. Website: www.sarahmakesart.com
Francesca Berrini: Francesca is a mixed-media artist who has long worked with found objects and been concerned with bringing attention to discarded materials in her artwork. Her work is primarily focused on two-dimensional collage pieces but she has also worked with three-dimensional works. Francesca received a BFA in Furniture Design from the Rhode Island School of Design and has participated in numerous group and solo shows since 2003.
For GLEAN, Francesca has a few different kinds of artworks planned. She will transform plastics and other flexible materials into wearable art. Paper fabrics and flat materials will also be turned into two-dimensional collage works, while metal and wood will become durable outdoor art or furniture. Website: www.francescaberrini.com
Alyssa Kail: Alyssa is a mixed-media sculptor who utilizes different materials and platforms in her work, all with the intention of exploring issues of distortion, perspective and the nature of visual perception as a whole. She utilizes sculpture, installation and photography to create optical phenomena that alter our perception of everyday experience with the hope of bringing attention to things we often don’t think about or see. Alyssa graduated in May from the Applied Craft & Design Program jointly presented by the Pacific Northwest College of Art and the Oregon College of Art & Craft.
Alyssa has participated in approximately a dozen group shows since 2010. For GLEAN, she has created sculptures, some of which may include small light-box style mechanisms that will illuminate abstracted photographic images. Website: www.alyssakail.com
Michelle Liccardo: Michelle is an emerging sculptor and painter who works primarily with plaster, wood, paper, mixed-media and found objects. GLEAN, in other words, is the kind of show that’s tailor made for her process-heavy approach. Michelle currently teaches painting at Portland Community College and 3-D Design at Portland State University. She received her MFA in Contemporary Studio Practice in 2010 from PSU. Since 2008, Michelle has participated in four solo shows and several group exhibitions, including one at Disjecta’s Vestibule Space.
Michelle’s contribution to GLEAN will be a body of work based on drawings she has made from broken vessels interspersed with stacked rocks that, put together, resemble totems or relics that could have been found in an underwater archaeological dig.
Whitney Nye: A longtime and well known artist in Portland’s commercial gallery system, Whitney is a visual artist who has worked in different media in a career that currently spans more than 30 years. Her work has addressed numerous themes and concepts but chief among them has been what she describes as the “patterns of repetition and the rhythms and pauses of the natural and industrial worlds.”
Whitney received her BA in Studio Arts from the University of Oregon in 1989. She has been awarded a variety of academic and residency honors over the years: a fellowship with the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina; a residency at the Oregon College of Art & Craft; and an artist-in-residency with Bullseye Glass in Portland.
Whitney’s art is in the collections of more than a dozen major cultural institutions, including Oregon Health and Science University in Portland and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene. She is represented by one of the most enduring Northwest galleries, the Laura Russo Gallery in Portland, and has participated in more than a dozen group and solo exhibit during her career, including a recent show at the Portland International Airport.
For GLEAN, Whitney has made a body of work constructed predominantly out of formerly discarded wood. She is excited about the opportunity to use art to highlight the amount of waste we produce and the vast potential that exists for re-use. Website: www.whitneynye.com
Natalie Sept: Natalie is a sixth-generation Oregonian who splits her time between politics and art. A graduate of the painting program at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina, Sept has spent time living in Japan, India, Sweden and Spain. Her artwork focuses around storytelling and portraiture and highlights the work of otherwise unseen laborers in society.
This fall, Natalie will be leaving her job as District Representative for Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici in order to pursue an advanced fine arts degree at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Website: www.nataliesept.com