By Gabby Pardo and Frank Gargano
Eleven local artists who produce works using recycled materials are being featured at The Treasure that Trash art exhibit that opened this Saturday at the Stony Brook Village Education and Cultural Center.
The artwork ranged from animal sculptures composed of old tools and woven plastic bags to a collage of lids from takeout containers. The environmental theme for the exhibit is rooted in the center’s mission statement.
“Part of the mission of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization is to preserve the local wetlands,” Kristen Ryan Shea, director of the center, said. “Using recycled materials in works of art, in addition to bringing awareness can be an important tool in changing the viewers perspectives about what art is.”
The Long Island Sound Study, a clean water advocacy group, found over 114,000 pieces of trash while cleaning beaches in 2017. This included food wrappers, plastic caps and glass bottles. The American Littoral Society also reported 15,000 pounds of debris found on Long Island Beaches.
Some collages in the show were made using materials similar or exactly like what was found during the cleanups.
“I absolutely love the idea of using recycled materials in art. It is great for the environment and for the artist,” Nicole Franz, a mixed media artist part of the exhibit, said.
Franz first started as an art teacher for 15 years until the department faced budget cuts. She decided to give herself two years to become a professional artist and has now been one for six years.
Other artists in the show are self-taught and come from different parts of the world. Deciding to create environmentally safe art wasn’t always a priority for many.
“I was an Air Force brat and grew up in Japan,” said Nancy Yoshii, a mixed media artist. “In my early 30’s, I became a potter and worked in clay for 30 years. Living in Japan has greatly influenced my artwork, and for the past few years I’ve become an inveterate collector of interesting trash that I love to recycle into mixed media and found object pieces.”
Some artists in the exhibit have always worked with natural materials. The environmental impact was not a main part of this decision.
“While I was in the army, I got into the art of wood working,” Michael Vivona, a featured artist from Patchogue, said. “When I got out and moved to the island, I started to build my own furniture and that eventually grew into what I do today. There’s a handful of people that kind of do this and if it catches on, great and I encourage people to do it. The ecological impact is a small part that’s not really a main motivator, but it is a nice part of it.”
Environmental scientists like Hofstra University’s E. Christa Farmer have seen this art happening and are on board for bringing awareness to pollution in the ecosystem.
“This sounds like a great idea in diverting material from the waste stream,” Farmer, an associate professor from Hofstra’s Geology Environment and Sustainability Department, said. “If the art is simply made, if might have an impact on raising awareness.”
The exhibit will be open until March 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily for a $5 admission fee.