On walks, I find feathers, seed pods, pieces of wood, leaves, flowers, sticks, papers, plastic and metal things, pieces of glass, strings, all objects that were useful in some way before they were dropped or lost. They served important purposes and then they didn’t. Some fell from trees, from birds, from pockets, the undersides of cars, or from the hand of a distracted walker like me.
I find these little things visually interesting. I do love paper clips and buttons! Mostly I like to think about how useful each object had been and had it been grown or purchased for an important function, helping a bird fly, capping a drink, holding a shirt front closed, getting someone into a movie theater. And then, each thing is on the ground, considered litter and trash. Their designs are beautiful, all of them. They functioned well and are pleasing to look at. So, I pick them up, admire them, and take them home.
I carry these little found things from the ground, pick out a few, and lay them out on a surface in a carefully arranged composition. I slowly draw each item with graphite while only looking at the items, not the drawing, while I draw.
I elaborate with ink lines, pushing and pulling around the graphite lines. Drawings are on top of drawings. Shapes enlarge and shrink. Spaces are filled in. Dots are added to expand the drawings. Images drift from the object to abstraction, becoming my personal visual interpretations as well as depictions of what used to be debris.
I also draw larger pictures from the debris arrangements and watercolor paint selected areas. I have expanded more with large acrylic paintings on canvas, as well. I love the debris so much that I make sculptures by attaching the found things to boards with embroidery threads.
The purpose in turning these discarded things into art is to present interesting expressions as well as to alert viewers to watch for the overlooked on the ground and in our lives.
While making these drawings, paintings and sculptures, I often think about refugees with whom I’ve worked. They were living their lives in places where they were no longer welcome. They were forced to leave and had difficult times finding a home country in which to function again. They too know what it is to be discarded, discounted. How can we ease the pain?
I became friends with a family forced from Bhutan for religious reasons to a camp in Nepal and then to the United States. With the help of the local International Rescue Committee, they are now productive, thriving members of the Charlottesville community.
Featured image above, Metal Scrap and Others, drawingShare this post with your friends.