Trash is a Weighty Matter…but is it Art?
Trash is a Weighty Matter
“The idea came from not wanting to throw things away…Country dumps are [miles from rural homes] and we were not wanting to add to the landfill.” Monica Schill explained between gasps as she and her husband Leo struggled to move huge cement “rocks” to the sculpture garden at the Morris Grave Museum. The pieces are filled with trash from the last year, wrapped in chicken and aviary wire, then encased in cement.
Schill, an artist who lives with her carpenter husband in Bridgeville, became interested in trash around 1998 when “I took a year’s worth of plastic milk jugs to the dump but, at that time, [the dump] didn’t take them….So, that led to the art piece “Milk Jugs”. I crushed the jugs then wrapped them in old poultry wire. Next they were covered in concrete. To this day they still sit in my yard as a habitat for wild lizards.”
The boulders Schill shows me are enormous. Could people actually use that much trash? Apparently so. According to estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency the average American uses over 1600 pounds of trash of year each and more than half of that ends up in landfill. The Milk Jug piece inspired Schill to show people how much space trash actually took up.
“I’ve been collecting about a year.” Schill explained. “Because I turn 44 this year, I was going to do 44 pieces but when I got accepted at this space here last [September] (she waved at the enormous sculpture yard)—“I doubled the amount because there was not enough to fill the space.” She laughs a little wryly “I like to work with unattainable numbers.”
Schill Gazing through a Mural Reflected on her Glasses at the Morris Graves Museum
In order to collect the trash needed to make the 88 “rocks.” She began by putting stuff in a box. “Anything non-toxic and non-recyclable and not out right gooey—we didn’t want it to start smelling.” Then she dumped
Trash in Tile Style
the box “into a contractor bag-that gave the shape. I wrap with chicken or aviary wire or both. About ½ [the rocks] are in recycled wire and ½ new.”
She had a great deal of old wire already because…”my husband’s a carpenter and we have a fixer upper.” Inside the pieces are everything from “old toothbrushes, used wooden matches, toilet paper wrappers, band-aid wrappers, insulation, paper cups, Mexican chocolate wrappers, old dog toys, Remay ground cover, cardboard milk and 1/2 & 1/2 cartons, rubber gloves, holey socks, sand and cement bags, styrofoam packing material, some pieces of plastic that the dogs dug up in the back yard, tar paper, broken window glass, and the list goes on and on.”
Even though, because of her husband’s construction work, she ended up with large amounts of building material, Schill feels that “…I ended up with about the same as the average 3 person family for the year. …We’re hardcore on recycling … We [only ended up] taking about 1 large bag of garbage to the dump per month.
About a fourth of the pieces are tiled in Schill’s lovely mosaic work (She does fireplaces and other pieces some of which are on display at the delightful Persimmon’s Garden Gallery in Redway.) One below is pictured on her blog and greets visitors to her rural home.
But Schill decided not to “mosaic all the rocks because then it would be all about the mosaic and not about the garbage.” Even the 207 pounds of tile she uses is recycled from her other art work and from a donation of broken tile from Eel River Glass and Tile in Fortuna
In fact, the small plaques which contain her signature, the date and the number of the piece which are embedded in each “rock” are, as Schill explains on her blog, “cutout of “recycled 1/2 inch copper pipe that I have cut into 1/2 inch pieces, and flattened with pliers.”
(Photo from her blog.)
The finished tile pieces are quite beautiful. Below is shown The Big One, a 400 pound piece, ready for hauling from the Schill’s Bridgeville home to Eureka’s Morris Graves’ Museum.
Photo from Shill’s blog
Each individual piece is available for sale at the show which is opening this Saturday night at Arts Alive. May 2, 2009, 6-9PM. After that, Gallery hours are Wed-Sun. Noon-5pm
Hopefully, the rest of us will see the wall of trash we all are building and find a way to reduce, reuse, and recycle more—a lot more.