First Gleaning

Yesterday I gleaned for the first time. I spent the first two hours in Hazardous Waste. Nice people. I realized through my conversations with them that they are true environmental advocates-and not just the kind who say “Hooray for the environment”. They live it every day. I got to go through 5 large bins of construction and house related products, leaving with  185 lbs of cement, caulking, spray foam, polyurethane, paint and glue. These are “no-brainer” necessities for the work I’m about to do. I was stunned by the numbers of unopened containers, as well as by the financial cost represented in these bins. I was happy to learn that a reuse group called Golden Harvesters does redistribute some of these items and that Habitat for Humanity uses some of the construction material. It is a really good idea to separate out anything remotely usable when you are taking things there. There are so many avenues of reuse being employed there.  (Below are 3 of the 5 bins I went through)

hazwaste

The really fun part is in Bay 1. It was Monday. I’d heard that it was mostly business and construction debris on those days and that is ok with me. The weekend is when individuals unload their treasures most often. I kind of like the construction debris. I was drawn to the broken glass and rubble piles. It occurs to me that I’m probably not even looking for the fantastic-thing-that-is-still-usable -and-I-can’t-believe-they-threw-it-away. When I found those things-and I did-St Vincent DePaul or the Rebuilding Center were standing by to receive them. I wound up taking things like packing peanuts, broken glass, Polystyrene and carpet padding-things that were in no short supply! Those feel like important things to me. I feel like I want to document the texture of the place. I already have a pretty solid vision of this installation and that statement is compatible. I left with a total of 220 lbs. I don’t think I’ll be back for a while though, until I’ve tried some processes out to make sure they work. When I got home, I took a long nap.

firsthaul

Learning the Ropes

 

GLEAN:  I’m taking part in an artist residency program for the next 6 months. 5 artists will be creating artwork from materials gleaned from the Metro Transfer Station. The work has to be 99% or better created from waste. There will be a show at Disjecta that opens August 16, 2013. If you’d like to follow their adventures as well, check out www.gleanpdx.org
Below is my first post:

Well, hello there. It seems like just the other day that we were getting our orientation at the Transfer Station. That’s because it was. I learned some things. I learned that about 38% of what goes to the station is sorted back out and re-purposed. I learned that a truckload of Styrofoam can be melted back down into a lump the size of a basketball and then made into other things.

I learned that behind Bay 1 of the Transfer Station (the place where most of us part with our excess), there is a line of workers at a conveyor belt, sorting and looking for things that can be recycled or reused. I learned that, despite working around garbage chaos and noise all day, all of the employees (of the Transfer Station and of Recology) seemed excited and proud of the work they do. I especially like James, the Operations Supervisor for Recology -what a gregarious dude!

I also was reminded, because I used to know this, that beautiful birds (Falcons) are employed at the station to chase off the slightly less beautiful birds (Seagulls) who become a hazard and a nuisance to the work flow.  Their boss is called the Falconer.

I also learned that all of the garbage from Portland, up to Seattle, and over into Idaho gets dumped in a landfill in a place called Arlington, out in the Gorge.

I left the Transfer Station feeling better about garbage than I usually do, though. It was the end of the month and the place was fairly cleaned out. There was less to see than I have seen on previous trips there-when I was adding to the pile. Out of sight, out of mind I suppose. And isn’t that the biggest problem of all?

As a sculptor I try to reuse as much as I can but some processes make waste. I struggle with it and I have been asking myself questions for a long time. Why do we put art into the world?  That seems to be the easiest one to find an answer for from an artist’s point of view. But, what if no one likes or wants it? How many painting class nightmares and “so…What is it?” sculptures are already buried in the landfill? I know a few of mine are there. Even if I like what I made enough to keep it, where can I put it? When I run out of spaces, where will things go?