Queens of Rosy by Abby Feinkopf.

Green Works

The human race has been around a while, so it is possible that we have made everything that possibly could be created already. Maybe that is why so many things in the early 21st century are about reboots (which is the same as copying a smarter person’s homework) instead of creating something original and new. But even when all of this recycled material can seem tired and uninspiring, original art is a type of upcycling that can actually seems refreshing, using materials that otherwise would find their way in a landfill.

Anita Maharjan

Maharjan is an impressively innovative artist who creates art using recyclable or discarded materials to make a statement on western consumerism and trash problems. She’s not averse to doing a bit of scrounging to find materials.

“During my graduate program at CCAD, I had many peers and faculties bringing giant piles of discarded bags and tissue papers. Similarly, I got many discarded bed sheets from hotels as well,” says Maharjan, who blends her own Nepali artistic traditions with an American sensibility. “My process of weaving is very unique since it ties to my culture. I cut grocery bags and make many strips to start with rope and then twist them to weave. After weaving, sometimes I use paint on them or sometimes I dye the plastic before weaving, although I like to leave natural color of fabric in many cases.”

Mindy Keys

A self-described “corporate escapee,” Keys now creates her art full time. Her art materials are 95% from abandoned or recycled items. Her metal artwork is striking, and real proof that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

“All of my pieces are made with recycled/reclaimed materials. The wall-hangings are 100% reclaimed metal I source myself, except the paint for the background color,” says Keys, who even uses old or found cardboard boxes to package and send her art. “I love finding a crazy piece of rusty metal and letting it tell me what it wants to be.”

Michelle Stitzlein

Stitzlein is an artist who takes the discarded and gives it a second purpose as art. Mini-blinds. Piano keys. Bottle caps. She takes all of these found items and makes a living and breathing work.

“As advancements in industry and engineering move forward and progress, the obsolete castoffs flowing into landfills subsequently change and evolve,” says Stitzlein. “My current work is created with old consumer goods and outdated industrial items from a specific time period in the waste stream. The technological developments after 1990 created a monumental wave of excess cables and wires.”

That excess can make a sad statement on consumerism, but can also begin Stitzlein’s creative process.

“This debris flow, of mass produced and machine made products, is where I source materials and I am inspired to incorporate them into contradictory imagery or incarnations influenced by nature,” says Stitlein.

Abby Feinknopf

“I’ve worked in fabric collage for years, but after completing treatment for breast cancer in 2016, I moved into painting with bold acrylics, as a means to bring creative energy back to my depleted self,” said Feinkopf.

Feinknopf uses art and illustration to convey joy and happiness, and maybe even hope. She uses discarded mail, unused books, and other paper clutter to create mixed-media art that reflects her additional background as a writer. The message of her art is a positive one, something that, speaks of optimism in the world that can seem so bleak.

“I like to recycle old books, junk mail and prescription papers, so you will often find phrases plucked from vintage pages, the interior sides of security envelopes as well as prescription disclaimers discussing the side effects of a particular drug,” said Feinkopf. “I incorporate the book pages as a way to give the book a second life, another chance to speak. But I use the envelopes and prescription inserts as my way of talking back to their unwanted invasiveness.”

Story by Emily Arbogast.