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?


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