We all know the saying, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Where things that most people see as unwanted, useless or as just plain garbage, others see them as ways to create beauty by putting normally discarded items together and transforming them into a work of art.
From April 19-21, area residents and visitors will have an opportunity to see this recycled art firsthand for this year’s Recycled Art Show at the Art Alliance in Lemont. Anni Matsick, chairwoman of the show, said this year there are 47 entries: 30 adult, nine teen, six youth and two group entries. Artists displaying their work include practicing artists veering outside their usual media and novices wanting to challenge their skills.
“There are always parents bringing children and guiding them through the show, asking questions to provoke interest and response from the child,” Matsick said. “All is done in an underlying spirit of fun, although we do take the work quite seriously.”
This year’s theme is “Black and White and Red All Over.” Entrants must include a statement about their inspiration and relationship to theme. Criteria for all entries are adherence to theme, use of recycled/repurposed materials and craftsmanship. Each viewer may cast a ballot for their favorite piece in the adult category. Prize winners will be announced during the event reception at 8 p.m. April 19. Prizes will then be awarded at the close of show, with the popular vote winning a $100 prize from the Art Alliance.
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Krentzman & Son, a recycling company based in Lewistown, has been the corporate sponsor for the show for the past eight years. Michael Krentzman, vice president of the company, said he takes great satisfaction and pleasure in sponsoring the show.
“We — people in the recycling industry — do not have much time during the day to look at our business life artistically, so taking a moment to see items we may view as pure commodities elevated and given new meaning is quite a kick to us,” he said. “The Art Alliance makes our community better, and we are so proud to support this excellent organization and our community.”
Three-time popular vote winner Marilyn Seeling, an artist from Lycoming County, said the exhibit caught her attention four or five years ago, when the show’s theme was “Reach for the Stars.”
“I really enjoyed creating a dog jumping for a star-studded Frisbee,” she said. “I’ve been entering the show each year since that time.”
For this year’s show, Seeling said her piece is made from plastic bottles, a black sweater, a flower pot (nose), a zipper, doll eyes, garbage bags, a window blind, fishing line, melted plastic plates, a soup can, pen nibs, coat hangers and a wooden cane.
“I thought first of an animal theme,” she said. “Of course, a black and white skunk came to mind. I remembered people clean dogs with tomato sauce when sprayed by skunks; thus the idea: a skunk cleaning up with a shower of tomato sauce.”
Aside from the creative aspects of her art, Seeling finds humor in it as well.
“I like to make people laugh,” she said. “In this very serious world we live in, sometimes we need to laugh.”
Ruth Kempner and Manya Goldstein’s piece resembles a cat and is made from a wide range of materials, including paper packing forms, vintage buttons, jewelry, single-serve butter tubs, acrylic paint, a wooden ruler, feathers, fabric, a shipping box, an old bow tie, a license, scrap wood, plastic sheeting, suede, fabric, a clementine box and a ribbon.
“We had both saved the paper shipping forms independently and were intrigued by the shapes,” Goldstein said. “When we put them together, an odd creature emerged. And she had to have a pet.”
A Penn State graduate in art education, Seeling taught art for seven years. Though she admits teaching and disciplining were never her strong points, Seeling said encouraging and creating are more what she strives for.
“I enjoy seeing the returning artists who I have come to recognize, and I look forward to seeing their entries,” she said. “The children who come to the exhibit and view the show are very enthusiastic about their work and the work of others.”
For this year as with any other year, Matsick said the emphasis continues to be on the importance of recycling, but at the same time seeing the value in things. “It’s about seeing beauty and interest in throwaways,” she said. “But it’s also about sharing fun and creativity and a unique challenge to create something valuable and often thought provoking from discards.”
After the show, a selected group of artwork will be chosen to move on to the Centre County Waste Authority in State College to be displayed in its interpretive center, giving the pieces additional exposure. The art will be on display from April 22-May 20. If not sold by that time, the pieces will then be retrieved by their owners.
Though the competition is meant to be creative and fun, Seeling said there is an important lesson to be learned from it.
“My purpose for creating these sculptures is mainly fun, but if it shows people that something can be made from nothing and without money, then that is a plus,” said. “Our throwaway lifestyle has created a huge problem for our landfills. Mountains are being created each day from things we discard, so let’s be creative and reuse and recycle.”