In our current era of a heightened environmental awareness, artists are turning to our everyday discarded items to satisfy the urge to create while still taking care of our planet. Recycled art is becoming an increasingly mainstream form of expression while still making use of preexisting used materials instead of wasting raw materials. The tradition of recycling has always been an aspect of Yankee thrift dating back to early pioneer days, yet forces at work in capitalism since the turn of the 19th century have disrupted impulses to save and reuse. A resurgence in no-waste tendencies re-emerged during the Great Depression and continued with raw materials collection during World War II. From the 1930’s to the 1970’s, outstanding artists like Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson and John Chamberlain set the mold for current use of trash as an elevated creative medium. More recently, innovative art by Ha Schult, Yuken Teruya and Lin Evola-Smidt are forging new terrain in public education projects that combine recycled material with social awareness campaigns.
Ha Schult, a pioneer in utilizing his art to inspire people is a German man with inventive ideas on how to make use of garbage. Two major pieces of Schult’s were the “Trash People” and “Save The Beach” exhibitions. In his “Trash People” collection, Ha Schult successfully molded one thousand life-sized trash people out of electronic waste, crushed cans and other units of garbage. This method visually voiced his views on human consumption and wastefulness. “Trash People” has journeyed through some of the most famous tourist spots, like the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Giza and the Red Square located in Moscow. In his “Save The Beach” project, Schult built hotels out of items that washed ashore. “Save The Beach” served as Ha Schult’s global outcry about the massive amount of pollution in our seas, and his way of solving the issue. He calls to attention our conspicuous consumption while using our waste as his medium.
Lin Evola-Smidt convinced residence of Los Angeles to donate their guns to her so she could melt down the metals to pour into sculpted molds for angel statues, transforming weapons into angels of peace (Video). Evola-Smith sought not only to create sculptures, but to initiate a movement to end to the violence in the City of Angels. One of her most prominent pieces is a thirteen-foot angel statue that now resides at Ground Zero in New York, in memory of 9/11. Her artwork now provides a focal point in many urban parks as a constant reminder of her aim to decrease the availability of guns nationally, and worldwide. More artists, like Yuken Teruya, are also taking on the approach of causing a revolution for humanity. Teruya’s “Corner Forest” series shows the world how even the most simplistic rubbish items can be transformed into a beautiful masterpiece. Yuken Teruya desires to change our use-once-then-destroy method into something grander, by not wasting new, raw materials and making use of the accessible used materials we have at our disposal.
Art, in all its forms and fashions, is a brilliant way of expression. It allows a method of communication between the artist and their audience without the need of vocal speech. Recycled art is an affordable, eco friendly way to transmute waste into something productive while attempting to affect the human soul. Recycled art is an innovative approach to assist people in making a shift within themselves, ideologically and behaviorally. It provides a win-win situation, in which the use of recycled goods lessens the quantity of waste constantly available, provides a valuable message, and provocative, enduring objects of beauty and curiosity.