A Deconstructed Life: Trash Artist and Philosopher, Litter Picking Pediatrician
July 12, 2020
Trash is ubiquitous. Our life is full of disposables. Single use beverage containers, single use fruit squeezes and single use friends. Why put the effort into buying fresh apples and remembering to eat one every day before they spoil, when you can buy a box of Go-Go Squeeezes that lasts practically forever? I was chatting with a co-worker. We were discussing a departmental issue and I used a trash analogy. She agreed and said that everything can be analagous to trash. She is right – trash is everywhere. It is the medium that conducts our modern lives and relationships.
Yesterday was a productive trash art day because I finished three pieces. I was in the flow. Some of them are useful for my Pediatric Anti-Vaping and Anti-Smoking work efforts. Some are silly. Some are helping me work through issues. I never thought I had issues, but I now realize that we all have issues. My dog died at 5 years of age when I was away at college. I never fully processed it. I made a trash art picture memorial to him. It’s silly and sad. It’s meant for me. I’ll hang it in my office.
My first few pieces of Trash Art were made entirely by ocean beach finds. I’ve begun incorporating trash from our house in the recent pieces. I’m slowly going through the ubiquitous drawers that boxes hold the bits and pieces of our lives. Initially I felt I had to be a purist like Washed Ashore and have only “trash” that was about to go into the ocean. But I’m making the trash pieces mostly for myself. We were watching a movie “Game Design” last night with the kids. It’s about the world of Table Top Board Game Designers. One of the designers said that the difference between an artist and a designer is that artists make their works for themselves. A designer makes it for other’s consumption. I dozed off for the rest of the movie but that idea stayed with me.
And I have realized that going through my own trash and incorporating it with those found pieces on my plogging and beaching cleaning sessions creates a different dynamic. I reminds me that I am not much different than the litterers who have lost a stray plastic bag or a forgotten sandal.. I have bought too many plastic things for my children and likely have missed the trash receptable at some point in my life. Combining the plastic I find on the beach with the remnants of our own wasteful lives has been incredibly powerful.
The above piece is titled “A Deconstructed Life.” It didn’t make a big splash on my own personal facebook feed but I know in my now trash artist and trash philsopher’s heart that it is powerful. I look at this piece again and again. There are connections upon connections. Some portions are put together quickly. I had torn up a few other intact trash art pieces that did not seem quite right. The flip flop trash people are almost too easy for me now. This one was composed of components of previously assembled pieces when I realized the older pieces were stories I had told already. “A Deconstructed Life” came together.
The box is actually a gift from a patient’s family. They had heard that I have been making trash art. I told them I love the Apple boxes as frames. The focal point of the piece is really the tetris game shapes that I made from an old plastic halloween costume. I traced and cut those squares out first, flipping them from side toside to find the pattern that worked. I use a hot glue gun. At points I have to work quickly. I don’t let my mind overthink things. It has to flow or I’ll burn my fingers. The block at the upper right is a piece of foam I cut out from a water logged toy football I found on the beach. The foam football insert was what interested me the most. I painstakenly took apart the football, washed away the sand and sea water, and allowed it to dry. Then I cut out a foam cube from the thickest part of the toy. I made it into a 3 dimensional cube giving it depth but there is one side I purposefully left uncovered. I put a wooden star there, to delight anyone who cares to look. There is some wood there among the plastic. It brings forth a plastic coated cartoon picture of a milk bottle. I had saved that from one of our Girl Scout Cookie events. I’m drinking less milk now since we are #tryingvegan. But I have been thinking girls’ bone density in clinic as we’ve seen an uptick in disordered eating. But what is milk? Is non-dairy milk still milk? The “Mint To Be” cut out is from the same plastic Girl Scout Trash. I’ve blogged about my complicated experience being a working physician mother and Girl Scout leader.
Three vaping pens are hidden in “A Deconstructed Life.” Can you find them? One looks like it’s been scooped up by the toy bulldozer. Yes I found that on the beach as well. I am still fascinated with the Surf Rake that cleans the beaches early in the morning. I included the surf rake which costs $54,000 into one of my work vaccine presentations. The piece is framed by pieces of flip flops. Both the upper corners are framed by flip flop pieces. The right side frame I chose the sole of a child’s flip flop. Working with children and having my own children and trying to save the earth for the children, they invade my thoughts. My footsteps in the sand. Their foot steps in the sand.
The piece right above the green vaping pen is the first piece of 3D plastic printing my daughter did years ago. She was so happy to bring it home to show me, but it was still plastic. It’s saved this piece for years. All the other pieces are from the beach: plastic chicken and stuffed elephant. Some on my personal facebook feed have said it’s because I want to “Save the Elephants.” But I really meant that it’s the elephant in the room how wasteful we’ve made life. But that is the great thing about art, it means different things to different people.
I think the reason trash art is interesting is that it’s accessible. It’s accessible for anyone to make. And everyone understands trash. When you look at trash art, you see the disparate disposable parts of our lives and how the artsit puts it all together. And you can do trash art. Anyone can do it.
This is “A Deconstructed Life” and as an artist, I know it is powerful. I look at it again and again. There are many layers of meaning. I’ll be interested to see how others react to it. If people don’t get it than that is okay. I made it for me, to work through my own issues with the trash in our modern lives and the trash I find on the beach. I am deconstucting my life in many ways. Mr. Plastic Picker was telling me that what defines a writer or an artists who is good at their craft is the time you spend on it. Between my collecting the pieces, washing the pieces, looking at them, and putting them together and them sometimes taking them apart – it is a process that for me takes a long time.
And below is an easier piece to understand. It’s still trash, but I felt more like it’s a trash design. It’s meant for mass consumption and to reach an audience to teach the dangers of vaping. Trash artist, trash phisopher, trash designer, plogger (picking while jogging) and plogger (blogging about plastic). So many labels I can wear. But in the end it’s the same person looking at the world a bit differently.