Transforming Trash Into Art

Environmentally-responsible artists turn trash into extraordinary pieces of art.

| March/April 2006

  • "The World's First Robot Family" by DeVon Smith is made of recycled appliances, lights, rubber gloves and hoses and is part of the permanent collection of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

When ordinary folks turn found objects into extraordinary pieces, it’s something special. These self-taught folk-artists-with-a-twist often are referred to as “grassroots,” “raw,” “visionary” or “outsider” artists. More often than not, their desire to create is a passion— even an obsession.

Plastic bottles make up hundreds of backyard whirligigs in La Crosse, Wisconsin, thanks to the happy musings of Paul Hefti. In Buena Vista, Georgia, everything from Tupperware to hubcaps has been sculpted with concrete and brightly painted, forming a magical palace for owner and creator, Eddie Owens Martin (a.k.a. St. EOM). For most of her 90-plus years, Betty Milliken of Lawrence, Kansas, has been making cameos and critters from caulk, sawdust, grapefruit rinds and her own chewed-up gum!

In the hands of these artists, beer cans or bottles become houses; dinosaurs evolve from farm implements. You’ve just got to see their work to appreciate these artists’ resourcefulness and amazing creative genius.

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