A six-foot tall trophy tower greeted guests at the door, every piece reflecting different little league games and bowling tournaments that have long been forgotten. Bone-white deer antlers hang like a chandelier on the wall, encrusted with crumbled glass on the tips.
At Disjecta Gallery, trashed and neglected items are transformed into art at the GLEAN art show. All art pieces were created from things found at Metro Central transfer station in Northwest Portland.
The show, which is in its fourth year, is sponsored by Metro as part of the "Let's Talk Trash" series of community events. This year, the show features artists Sarah Bernstein, Francesca Berrini, Alyssa Kail, Michelle Liccardo and Whitney Nye.
Each artist took on the challenge of creating art from trash in a different way. Nye narrowed her focus to make art from wood and glass, creating glass houses, glass encrusted shovels, and wood-and-glass forms that mimicked thundereggs.
Bernstein chose to highlight objects that once had emotional value to the owner, picking them up when someone else had let them go. Liccardo removed the object from the art altogether, pulverizing found paper and concrete into completely new forms.
All of the artists expressed surprise at how many practical goods were being thrown away. Berrini said she was expecting to find garbage that had no utility.
"What I ended up finding was so much actually useful stuff and tools. I got two air compressors, I got a miter saw, I got a motorcycle that runs, I got a chainsaw," Berrini said. "Really I was just overwhelmed by the quantity of perfectly functional objects that people in Portland throw away every day."
Nye said that she could have built a small house from the materials found at the transfer station. She could even furnish it with the brand-new barbeque she saw and the perfectly working piano.
According to Kail, the garbage bay where the artists gleaned was a public dump. Instead of picking from city garbage haulers, they were picking from individual pick-up trucks. People would clear out garage sales or storage units, revealing stockpiles of useful items.
In addition to the GLEAN show, the adjoining Nisus Gallery was hosting a portraiture show "Waste Not" by Natalie Sept, who painted the workers at the Metro Central transfer station.
Instead of focusing on invisible things such as trash, Sept chose to highlight invisible people, the people who take care of the work people don't often think about. Her earlier portraiture work focused on people who wash dishes in the back of restaurants.
For Sept, thinking about trash involves thinking about the workers involved and telling their stories.
"I want art to be accessible and tell a story and to involve people instead of alienate them," Sept said.
Alberto Meier, one of the subjects of Sept's paintings, arrived at the opening. Meier said he enjoyed being acknowledged for his work.
"It's great. It's a great opportunity to do this," Meier said. "It feels good to see where I work and be noticed for what I do." Meier added that he liked the portraits so much he wanted to buy one of his coworkers.
For all of the artists, the show represents the beginning of a dialog about waste, the utility, the possibility and the people involved.
For Kail, who describes spending time at the dump as a transformative experience, the show is an opportunity for inspiration.
"I hope it inspires people to start thinking about the richness of resource around us," she said.
Both GLEAN and Waste Not will be at Disjecta and Nisus through Aug. 31. Both galleries are open from noon to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday.