Two interactive installations — one titled “The Wave” by Maria Phillips and the other titled “Kelp Forest” by Barbara De Pirro — set the stage for the new exhibition at Schack Art Center.
“Art of Recycling: Repurpose with a Purpose” is a thoughtful reflection on the impacts of America’s waste habits. This “Art of Recycling” exhibit — a biennial event for the Schack — was curated with virtual and actual tours in mind because of COVID-19.
“We found that artists were extremely excited to create for this exhibit because it’s so nice to be getting back to normal life,” said Abby Powell, spokeswoman for the Schack Art Center. “There really is a burst of creativity shown here. I’m really excited about this one.”
Gallery director Carie Collver, who has curated the show, has put together artwork by more than three dozen mixed-media artists who explore ideas about recycling and repurposing.
These artists have transformed items that would otherwise be thrown away — such as rusty roller skates, plastic food wrappers, old tin toys, used-up pencils, worn out saddles and chicken wire — into works of art.
“Hopefully, when you walk through this exhibit, you can think about how your own consumption affects our environment,” Powell said.
Note that “The Wave,” in the mezzanine gallery, and “Kelp Forest,” on the second floor, are interactive in that they allow you to walk through or underneath them. While you can’t touch them, the installations play with your senses of sight and sound.
Maria Phillips, 57, of Seattle, was an artist in residence for the waste management company Recology in 2018. Her “The Wave” installation, which is 30 feet long and hangs from the ceiling, invites visitors to walk beneath it. Phillips made it out of her family’s single-use plastics that she collected over three months.
“My intention was to divert it and exploit it as an opportunity for people to see themselves in it,” she said. “That way people can say ‘Oh, wow. I eat that and that’s just going straight to the landfill.’”
An artist since 1992, Phillips has a master’s degree in fine art from the University of Washington. She has always made art out of found materials — natural or man made. It’s especially important to her now that she is the manager of Recology’s artists program.
Barbara De Pirro, 61, of Shelton, specializes in reimagining materials collected from our waste. Her environmental sculptures are meant to create a sense of wonder and encourage reflection about our relationship with nature.
She constructed the “Kelp Forest” installation out of hundreds of one-gallon plastic jugs. She cut each bottle by hand into narrow strips to create long spirals. Each of these strips were cut into segments that were then stitched and woven into a “kelp strand.” Much like “The Wave,” De Pirro’s installation is hung from the ceiling. You’re welcome to walk through it.
“I play with whatever materials I have at hand,” said De Pirro, who also teaches classes at the Schack. “My designer brain comes into action and tries to figure out what is possible; what I can create. I just puzzle through ideas.”
Powell said these sister installations have inspired the Schack to host beach clean-ups and lectures later in May.
In addition, there is a life-size sculpture of an Army man made out of thousands of green plastic Army Men toys — the kind you can buy buckets at a time.
Pieter VanZanden, 47, of La Conner, made the sculpture titled “Woven.” He drilled three holes into each toy so that he could then string them together with wire. He made the soldier’s stance humorous because it’s based off of the one toy soldier that isn’t poised for battle. The man could be surrendering, he could be getting shot — no one really knows.
VanZanden became a full-time artist after COVID-19 hit. But the former house builder has been showing his work at Smith & Vallee Gallery in Bow for the past six years.
“Anything that someone throws away, I try to figure out how to fasten it together,” said VanZanden, who co-owns Chop Chop Studios in La Conner. “I do a lot of Armageddon work, which is what I call ethical engineering through garbage. Our garbage is a collateral damage for the world that we have today.”
Powell said she is excited that the Schack Art Center also has curriculum — for teachers and homeschooling parents — to go with the exhibition.
“We always try to do an exhibit in the spring that is education-based, where we can give a lot of lesson plans and learning opporunities for students,” she said. This year, because of all of the COVID restrictions, they’ve instead developed virtual field trips and workshops for students.
Virtual Field Trips: Bring the Schack’s “Art of Rycycling” to your students with this field trip to-go May 1 through June 1. “Upcycled STEAM: Repurpose with a Purpose” includes video art lessons, a recorded virtual docent-led tour of the exhibition and an educational video component. For grades K-12. Registration is required.
Virtual Teen Night: Create your very own book out of materials you would otherwise throw away or recycle. Take this free “Recycled Book Making” workshop with Seattle Recreative on April 15 and May 20. For ages 13 to 18. Use your book a journal, sketch book, or give it away as a homemade gift. Free supply kits will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Educator Workshop: Explore the science of the 5 R’s — reduce, reuse, repair, rot and recycle — with this workshop also titled “Upcycled STEAM: Repurpose with a Purpose” on April 16 and 17. Instructors Mari Atkinson and Hilary Shearer will teach how to transform unwanted products into items with artistic and environmental value. Each hands-on project will apply common themes that connect science, technology, engineering, math and visual art. Registration is required.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; email@example.com; @sarabruestle.
If you go
“Art of Recycling: Repurpose with a Purpose” is showing at the Schack Art Center thorugh June 5. See the exhibit from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m.; 2921 Hoyt Ave., Everett. Admission is free. Call 425-259-5050 or go to www.schack.org for more information.