Five local artists have spent the last four months getting to know garbage, and what they’ve learned will soon be on display.
2018 GLEAN Exhibition Opening
6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3
421 Northeast 10th Ave., Portland
Aug. 3 through Aug. 25
Noon to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday
Find directions and save to calendar
Eduardo Cruz Torres, Carolyn Hazel Drake, Liz Grotyohann, Benjamin Mefford and Brittany Rudolf are participating in GLEAN, an annual program that offers a stipend to local artists to make art with the materials they find digging around at the Metro Central transfer station in Northwest Portland. Their work will be on exhibit at the Furthermore Gallery in Northeast Portland beginning Aug. 3.
Now in its eighth year, GLEAN was created to help raise awareness about our consumption habits and inspire new ways of looking at trash as a resource. The program is a partnership between Metro, the government that manages the greater Portland area's garbage and recycling system; Recology, a company that manages garbage and recycling facilities; and crackedpots, a local environmental arts nonprofit. Artists are selected each year by a jury of arts and environmental professionals.
Trash that was once treasured
Liz Grotyohann is building wooden boat frames and adding "skin" to them using found textiles.
“My idea was to use boats as a framework — they literally are these wooden skeletons. A little vessel of memory voyaging through life,” she said. “I wanted to skin them with materials that had stories — things that had a lot of human hands on them and a lot of love put into them.”
She found what she was looking for — intricate vintage lace and unfinished hand embroidery — buried in the trash.
Carolyn Hazel Drake has been drawn to materials that carry emotional weight. She gleaned boxes of travel slides, antique photographs and a collection of perfectly-sharpened pencils.
“There's an emotional component to this project,” Drake said. “These are people's lives as defined by their things. We're investing all of this energy into this thing that's a symbol of our lives but then ultimately what happens to that symbol?”
She’s finding unique ways to honor the history of these items while giving them new life.
Experimenting with new materials
Sometimes the abundance of an unexpected material pushes artists to experiment with something new. Eduardo Cruz Torres, who creates intricate metal etchings, has been exploring a new medium.
“You go to the transfer station and you find all kinds of things,” he said. “I’ve been working with copper, and that’s something I would have never tried if I hadn’t gotten into GLEAN. It’s expanded my ideas. It’s amazing what you can find.”
Benjamin Mefford is a mixed media artist who initially set out to focus on plastics, but decided to shift his focus after observing an overabundance of other types of products at the transfer station.
“I’ve been seeing tons of are cardboard and wood, lots of pallets and just waste wood from construction projects,” Mefford said. “My goal is to have somebody look at a material and then think about it differently, based on what I've made out of it.”
Shifting attitudes about waste
Like many artists,Brittany Rudolf has always used found material in her work, but participating in GLEAN has amplified the practice.
“I like the history of things that have some wear, but I’d never really thought about the impact on the waste stream,” Rudolf said. “If I’m reusing materials, it means it’s keeping things from going into a landfill. GLEAN has really heightened that idea for me, and it’s become a lot more meaningful.”
Liz Grotyohann has become more mindful of what she buys.
“I would go to the store and buy something, and the next day I’d go to the transfer station to glean and there it would be, in a pile,” she said. “I can't walk into a store and not just look at everything and think 'this is all just going to end up there soon. Very soon.’”
Carolyn Hazel Drake has been thinking about how easy it is to forget about your trash after it leaves your hands.
“You don't think about it. You don't see it,” Drake said. “I'm a third generation Oregonian, and now I’m thinking about the legacy of all of the waste that has passed through my family during that time. I have had the privilege to not have to consider it.”
The GLEAN art exhibit opens with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3 at the Furthermore Gallery in Northeast Portland. The exhibition will run through Aug. 25.