What do you get when you send five artists dressed in safety gear into a room for six months to sift through a steady stream of trash? The answer will be revealed at GLEAN, an environmental art exhibit at Disjecta Contemporary Art Center of Portland. The goal of the show, slated to run from Sept. 14 through 30, is to prompt people to think about how to create more and waste less.
Greg Hanson is a mixed media assemblage artist who likes to document his work online with in-process photographs; he also makes short videos on a YouTube channel with more than 800 subscribers. Orchestrating relationships between incongruous objects, Hanson says of his art, "it's all about being able to play as an adult." And play he does!
Blogging about his discoveries at the Metro Central transfer station, Hanson's excitement jumps from the page – "pianos everywhere," he exclaims upon finding the third "somewhat twisted remains" of one. Fascinated by its handmade materials, he strips its parts to use leaving only an empty shell.
Viewing his work as "breathing life into others' old memories," Hanson expresses surprise to discover a scrapbook dating back to the early 1900s. "The book is really quite well preserved. I certainly don't understand why this treasure was so easily tossed away," he says. Its hand-written diary entries and photographs document the story of a young bride and her marriage and honeymoon in 1911. "I'm grateful that I was able to retrieve it in those mounds of trash. This was truly a gift," he says.
GLEAN is a public, private, nonprofit partnership between Metro, the regional government that guides the region’s garbage and recycling system; Recology, an employee-owned company that manages resource recovery facilities; and Cracked Pots, an environmental arts group that manages the program. Now in its second year, GLEAN takes its inspiration from Recology San Francisco’s renowned artist in residence program.
The artists, selected by a jury of arts and environmental professionals, include Andrew Auble, Chandra Glaeseman, Greg Hanson, Jennifer LaMastra and Sarah Wolf Newlands. Reflecting the diversity of talent in the Portland region’s creative class, the group consists of instructors at area art schools, graduates of well-known universities and an art therapist. They are award winning professionals whose works have been in solo and group shows – locally and nationally.
Their work ranges from sculpture to mixed media assemblage to wearable art. They use modern and archaic forms, altering the commonplace into non-traditional and sometimes formal compositions.
The process of creating pieces and the transformation going on in the artists and their studios is compelling stuff. The artists have a blog and frequently muse about their adventures and experiences.