Granted, it may have all started with Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” back in the 20’s, but today’s trash artists are upping the ante when it comes to artistic upcycling like never before.
Whereas Duchamp’s purpose was more for shock value by rendering a urinal as a work of art, upcycling involves repurposing the item itself as a medium to create a new kind of art form. It rings of an altruistic intention for objects left for the trash heap by changing them into something better and more transcendent than what they were originally.
Upcycling in the modern sense may seem completely novel, but in artistic terms, the thought of creating something from nothing has flourished for centuries. By rendering art out of common everyday trash, artists are revealing something truly beautiful from what we deem useless and functionally broken. Their efforts show a real paradigm shift when it comes to our views of the waste cycle process as well as a growing movement toward a zero waste mentality.
If you google you can see a plethora of creative compositions from upcyclers online: Computer parts turned into sculptures; album covers framed and wall mounted; pieces of old CDs fashioned into jewelry or yard ornaments; old lightbulbs made into suncatchers; vases from wine bottles. The concepts are unending as well as the availability of the medium.
Not only is the upcycling trend lending a growing street cred when it comes to environmental awareness, it’s making a profound statement of the mass consumerism that characterizes our society. The result is inspired art that is both reflective of our changing values as a culture and symbolic of our evolving attitude towards trash as we know it.
As the old adage goes—one man’s junk is truly another man’s treasure. Seems that truism has more validity today than at any time in recent memory.
Today’s upcycler isn’t just imitating life through art. He’s re-imagining it from the ordinary around us.
He’s not just out to shock our senses or even for pure self expression. He’s saying something important about the way we think about life in general—
Beauty, in all forms, is often found in the most mundane.
I think it’s time we opened our eyes and see how true that really is.
Photo credit- L. Marie
About the Author
Tom Hill is the CEO of American Waste Control, Tulsa Recycle and Transfer and American Environmental Landfill along with a member of the Tulsa Master Recyclers Association. Tom’s company recently opened a six million dollar expansion to their recycling facility called Mr. Murph. For the past year, he’s devised and led American Waste’s green recycling initiative, aimed at communicating ways in which Tulsa families and businesses can reduce their waste through recycling to better help the environment. He and his wife, Olivia, have two children and live in Tulsa, OK.