Toxic Cloud Yarnies : Crafting with Compassion

I had the pleasure of meeting Mikey Anderson, creator of the little 'Toxic Clouds' below, in a class at SAIC where I came to do a talk on socially and environmentally responsible business-sense for artists and designers. They are sculptures, plush toys, and a cheeky way to make a statement about environmental responsibility. Mikey emailed me after the class to let me know about his new project, and I wanted to share it with my Wunderkammer readers!

This is what Mikey has to say about his charming clouds:  
These little plush clouds are made with 100 % natural fabric and felt made with plastic! They are stuffed with recycled plastic bags and bubble wrap. Plastic bags kill about 100,000 animals every year and they take 1000 years to decompose!
I decided to make these plush clouds in response to our poor clouds becoming 'sick' because of pollution. The fossil fuels we are burning are emitting sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide into the air! This shrinks icebergs, creates acid rain, depletes ozone, and even gives baby whales sunburn! 
So lets go green together!!!!

You can snag one of Mikey's cute recycled creations by getting in touch with him through his Tumblr blog.


Superuse : Where Recycling Meets Design

I recently stumbled on a community site called Superuse which catalogs and promotes the idea of transforming waste into something useful or beautiful. Not all of the ideas on this site are fine art, but they're certainly all great ideas for reusing materials to reduce waste. I haven't even begun to have the time to look at all these clever innovations, but I love this idea above...a CD spindle does make the perfect instant lunchbox for a bagel sandwich! Brilliant. You can see more clever ideas for reuse here, or jump to the section of art made from recycled materials here.

Here are just a few of the art projects listed:

Brazilian artist Henrique Oliveira uses wood collected from the streets of São Paulo to create huge installations that he calls "tridimensionals". The thin sections of wood, obtained from old fencing and boarding known as "tapumes", are bent and curved into these enormous structures that seem to spill off the gallery walls.

Miwa Koizumi turns PET bottles into underwater creatures using a combination of heat guns, soldering irons and different cutting utensils to make these PETs. She says: "I wanted to work with glass but this is more fun. I have as much material as I want just by fishing in the garbage."

Paul Villinski creates flocks of swirling butterflies from old beercans from the streets of New York, which are pain-stakingly cut into these fluttery configurations. The artists says the pieces explore themes of transformation and recovery through metamorphosis.

Kudos to all! Seeing 'trash' metamorphose into art or functional pieces of everyday design-ware, is just fabulous, and I love that there's now a site indexing it all. Superuse let's you submit your own work or the work of others, so check it out!


Michael Krueger

Michael Krueger, What is Here is the Same as What is There, colored pencil, 13" x 22", 2007

Michael Krueger, Mirror'land, colored pencil, 10" x 20", 2007

I found these interesting drawings recently by artist Michael Krueger. Though most of the artists repotoire is overtly concerned with the idea of Westward Expansion and the exploration by those of European descent of of the American West, there are definitive sub-notes of commentary on environmental issues here as well. Or at least it's impossible for me to think about Manifest Destiny without thinking about the conquering of the natural world in the New World --- leading to the eventual
, shall we say, desecration of the American wilderness. I found this sentiment most notably in this pair of drawings. Go ahead and click to enlarge them to appreciate the details, and I think you'll see what I mean.


Mocha Dick by Tristan Lowe

Artist Tristan Lowe created this 52 foot long sculpture of a sperm whale, cheekily named Mocha Dick, from sewn industrial felt over an inflatable form. According to the artist, the piece was intended as an environmental statement, to give the viewer the experience of "the Other." It was created for Philadelphia's Fabric Workshop and Museum.

I love the artist's choice to leave the sculpture white, as it lends an ethereal or magical flavor to what might otherwise be visually read as a hulking form of heavyweight ungainly felt. The white whale is, of course, a reference to Melville's famous Moby Dick, but also seems to be a savvy aesthetic choice. Despite its humble and earthy materiality, the sculpture truly transcends its components, and ends up looking as delicate as a 52 foot long whale sculpture can --- encrusted with lovingly-sewn barnacles and seamed with the scars of the whale's long co-existence with human-kind.

Many scientists consider the Sperm Whale to have the brightest conservation outlook of any whale species, so perhaps this piece is also an emblem of hope. However, many other species of whales, notably the North Atlantic Right Whale and the Western Pacific Gray Whale, are still in desperate straits. 'Save the Whales' may have been one of the original and most recognizable calls to action of the burgeoning environmental movement in the 70's --- but Lowe's beautiful sculpture surely reminds us why this is still one bumper sticker slogan that retains it's power and relevance today.

100 Great Blogs...

Just a quick note to let readers know that Wunderkammer was included in the list of 100 Great Blogs for Art Students & Enthusiasts. Woot!


Roman de Salvo at The New Children's Museum : A guest post by Shawnee Barton

This post was written by my friend and fellow artist Shawnee Barton. I hope you enjoy it --- and you should also check out her artwork, here!

Before I take kids to see “Apex Chariots,” a work of art created by artist Roman de Salvo for Animal Art, the current exhibition at The New Children’s Museum in San Diego, I ask them, “How could you move a cart without pushing it, using a motor, or an animal?” Almost always, this question inspires wacky answers: “I’d attach it to a bunch of balloons!” or “Put it on skis!” But the kids never come up with de Salvo’s unique solution—he utilizes unicycle parts that allow riders to move the cart by pumping a horseshoe shaped lever up and down.

The chariots are a group of finely crafted carts powered by human interaction. They are made of sustainable materials such as rattan and eco-friendly shellac, which pays homage to the NCM’s green mission. The NCM is a unique art space that resides in a new spacious, environmentally friendly facility in downtown San Diego. The NCM commissions contemporary artists to create projects that have as much integrity as the work they show in other museums and exhibition spaces, with one extra challenge. The NCM projects must be approachable and engaging enough to appeal to a young audience.

Each week I lead exhibition tours to school groups at the museum, and the chariots are one of the most popular works in this exhibition. Kids love driving them through the space, and the chariots also encourage young viewers to think about how our choices affect the environment and the other animals sharing our planet.

During my tours, the kids and I talk about the drawings on the front of the chariots. Each one depicts a different animal that was driven to extinction because of people, such as the stellar sea cow, which was hunted out of existence back in 1768. We discuss ways to help endangered animals, talk about the harmful side effects of cars, and brainstorm more sustainable ways to travel. I always feel hopeful after these conversations because the kids are so savvy when it comes to environmental issues.

Students have bragged that their parents drive hybrids like kids bragged about their parent’s Cadillac when I was young. They tell me about planting trees with their classmates, and they share factoids with the group, like the number of Siberian tigers that are left in the wild (less than 500). Hearing all this makes me smile inside. The next generation of adults is going to be more informed about environmental issues, and I believe that they will make significant changes in the way they care for our planet.

De Salvo is one of my favorite artists. His work manages to balance beauty, concept, craftsmanship, and wit, so I admittedly had high expectations for this new project. Conceptually, the chariots are a fantastic addition to Animal Art, but a couple of aesthetic choices in the piece left me a little disappointed.

First, the chariots are so finely crafted that they appear to be void of human touch in every way except that the animals on the front of the chariots are hand-drawn with a black marker. The tactility of the drawing doesn’t fit with the slickness of the rest of the chariot. And unfortunately using a black marker on canvas doesn’t result in a rich line, which makes the drawings look a little dull.

Second, the painted yellow lines on the floor form what looks like a loopy racetrack. The track looks interesting, and I like the reference to vehicular visual language. But the lines are functionally useless. The chariots aren’t exactly easy to steer, especially for a tiny driver, and navigating the outlined turns is extremely difficult. As I watch kids whiz through the space in patterns that have no relationship to the track, I think about the lines and the chariots as two separate pieces, which is unfortunate since every other aspect of the project feels cohesive and necessary to its overall concept or functionality.

Still, I feel lucky to be able to regularly spend time with de Salvo’s piece. The ambitiousness and complexity of the work makes me want to be a better artist, and seeing how excited kids get when they hop on the chariots is always a real treat.

Information about visiting the New Children’s Museum is available on their website, ThinkPlayCreate.org.