Recycled Art: Just a Fancier Word for Trash?

I know in my own teaching, I have often shuddered at the idea of teaching recycled art lessons–which inevitably turn into the students making toilet paper roll towers, or some sort of trash “sculpture.” These are then either a.)tossed into a school trash can by students once they are done with the project, or b.)tossed out/added to the clutter at home. Don’t get me wrong–playing with trash is COOL–and students LOVE building and cutting and taping oddly shaped items together. However, the finished products rarely reach that aesthetic quality that just screams, “hang ME on the wall!” or “display ME on the table.”

This is quite unfortunate, because recycled materials can be used by artists to create absolutely PHENOMENAL works of art! Here are a few examples of recycled artists’ work:

HA Schult’s “Trash People” installations

German artist, HA Schultz has created many different installations similar to the one shown above. For these installations, he creates thousands of “trash people,” which he then displays in various environmental locations (both rural and urban). His installations comment on our “throw-away” culture and lack of environmental awareness.

Tim Noble and Sue Webster’s shadow sculptures

Tim Noble and Sue Webster use trash in a different way in their shadow sculptures, as they transform what appears to be a pile of trash, into shadows of figures. In a similar fashion, their work addresses the clutter in our society and its impact.

Enno de Kroon’s egg carton paintings

Rather than simply building egg carton sculptures, why not ask students to use the carton as a canvas for a work of art similar to that of artist, Enno de Kroon? He describes his work as “egg carton cubism,” due to the interesting texture afforded by his working surface.

Gugger Petter’s Newspaper Art

Artist, Gugger Petter utilizes newspaper clippings to create beautiful images that are “informed by current events and history.”

These are just a few examples of the incredible possibilities that are really out there–and the best thing about using recycled items for artwork….IT’S FREE! For art teachers, artists, and parents on a budget, recycled “trash” can provide vibrant patterns, colors, textures, and surfaces for beautiful sculptures, paintings, and mixed media collages. The possibilities are endless—and stretch WAY beyond toilet paper towers and egg carton animals. But, if using toilet paper rolls as your medium appeals to you, check out these awesome artists’ works:

Junior Fritz Jacquet

Yuken Teruya

During the TAEA conference that I attended in Galveston last week (mentioned in previous post), I was able to attend a workshop about recycled art–which provided me with several cool ideas as well! Due to the length of this post, I’ll wait until another time to post some of those ideas!

Happy Tuesday!




12 thoughts on “Recycled Art: Just a Fancier Word for Trash?

  1. Came across this post and thought I would check it out. Being a parent of school-aged children, I have seen the general quality of many of these recycled materials school projects that you alluded to. I tell my kids not to worry about whether their work will wind up in a gallery, but to enjoy the making and think about the process as a reward unto itself.

  2. Thank you for liking my blog. Obviously I immediately started to read yours ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I lรณve the one with the faces by Junior Fritz Jacquet!!

    There is a man, I think in Texas, who has built a cathedral, entirely made of trash. Amazing! I can’t remember his name now, but I’m sure he will be found easily on the internet.

    Keep up the writing, it’s a pleasure to read.

    Greets, Jessica.

    • Thanks, Jessica! Yeah–the Cathedral of Junk–amazing! Unfortunately I think it may have gotten closed down..thankfully I was able to see it before that happened!

      I’m enjoying browsing your blog too! Keep the posts a coming! ๐Ÿ™‚


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