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Nature vs. Culture

Posted on Feb 26, 2012  |   2414 views  

It all started with a plan shortly after gaining inspiration from sculptor Tom Deininger. Like Deininger, I have always been inspired to recycle materials and cut back on waste to create visually pleasing pieces. After researching several artists who are known to work with recycling materials, I decided to narrow in on Deininger, and research his work and the approaches he takes in more depth. I soon became intrigued by his work as he not only uses found materials to create his sculptures, but also has worked with themes related to consumer society, with emphasis on over consumption. My plan for this sculpture was exactly this. Most of Deininger’s work reflects the problem over an abundance of waste that we must deal with as a society. Deininger proved to be a mentor through the design and construction of my final piece. Identical to Deininger’s approach, the idea of collecting and sorting through materials was a large aspect for my sculpture. After locating found materials within nature and in my blue box, I then started to combine and arrange them to create my sculpture. Deininger is known as a trash artist for his approach of reusing materials as he aims to cut back on waste, while at the same time to communicate a phenomenon about consumer culture. Similar to Deininger’s work, the aim of my sculpture is to bring awareness to the difficulty of waste by exploring the extent of consumerism and society’s desire to arrive at a sense of fulfillment through the continuous purchase of goods. Deininger’s imagination reveals his ability to look outside the box and approach art in a way that helps the environment. Although his work is essentially made out of “junk” that people have discarded without much thought, the larger picture goes a long way in communicating with society that aesthetically pleasing sculptures can be based around found materials which limits further waste arriving at the landfill. Deininger’s use of materials allows viewers to reflect on such comparisons which mirror who we are and the world we live in. Continuous consumption is a strong component of our culture, especially in North America, and can have a devastating impact on the natural world. Being inspired by Deininger’s use of materials and the messages he creates, I ended up working with both natural and processed materials to illustrate the conflicting world we live in. Deininger has guided me in my visual research as I portray the endless world of consumption and the damaging effect is has on the environment and society. Through the collection of consumer waste otherwise destined for landfills, as well as materials collected from nature, I have successfully assembled my sculpture to plan. My carefully designed sculpture tells a story, while also proving a point rather simply being dismissed by the public as a piece of “junk”. Through my this sculpture, I hope to engage viewers and have them reflect on their consumption patterns while drawing a connection to perhaps the impact it may have on the natural world around us. As I situate my piece, it can be viewed that “time is running out” and action should be taken to stall further unnecessary pollution, as well as to clean up polluted areas. The issue I address within my sculpture is one that we must not turn a blind eye to since the excessive demands are unsustainable. As society, we are bombarded with excess consumption leading to wastes including unnecessary packaging. This sculpture enforces whether or not everything we buy is necessary, and the impact the developed world has on the developing world through exploiting their resources, causing environmental and social upheaval. My sculpture stands to critically analyze the effects popular culture has on nature. It takes on the shape of an hourglass using natural materials. The addition of crumbled pieces of waste and excess packing symbolizes the idea of nature being taken over by consumerism over time. Nature is represented through the use of natural materials including driftwood, sticks, sand, and rocks, while waste packaging, receipts, and advertisements represent the consumer world. The collage of waste represents how excessive consumption affects the natural world. Waste is juxtaposed over the natural world which is represented through the use of natural materials that make up the hourglass. The use of natural materials represents the beauty and fragility of the world around us as it gets “consumed” by waste from consumer goods. The hourglass figure has been constructed using the top portion of two 2L pop bottles. All the materials I have arranged in this piece hold a form of symbolism. Starting with the production aspect, this final project involved a lot of visual thinking as I gathered my thoughts and ideas on paper. The production of my sculpture involved planning, thinking, and execution within several areas including craft, pursuit, inventiveness, and expressiveness which are qualities reflected in my final piece. Craft and technical skill represents what I had planned to do to arrive at my final sculpture. With careful attention to detail, I was able to carry out a functional piece that allows for physical interaction with the viewer. My sculpture allows for people to interact with it by turning the hourglass upside down to gain a different perspective. The construction of my sculpture had me working with organic materials which I had to alter in order for my sculpture to stand up straight. The ability to pursue a problem and develop a work overtime included making notes throughout the process. As my idea started to develop, I found myself adding and changing some ideas. These included adding Canadian coins to each end of the hourglass, illustrating the northern and southern hemispheres on the hourglass, using wire, and adding shopping receipts. The addition of coins represents how money is being “washed away” and buried with time through the purchase of consumer productions. The shape of the hourglass takes on a globe-like shape, which illustrates the northern and southern hemispheres. This addition represents the fact that consumerism is “taking over the earth”, as well as places further emphasis on how northern consumption is often at the expense of the south and the inequalities that exist between the two portions of the earth. The use of wire evokes a feeling of consumption that is taking over the natural world with time and the effects of mass consumption in today’s world. Waste does not only consume the environment which is represented by the clash between natural versus produced materials in my sculpture, but with the passing of sand through my constructed hourglass, time is seen as ticking, and if we keep our current consumer patterns, the natural environment will disappear. Some of the waste packaging I used in my sculpture I positioned on wire to create a feeling of waste consuming the natural world as it jets out over the northern and southern hemispheres in my sculpture. The addition of receipts to my sculpture further represents the endless consumer culture we live in as we spend, or in some cases, waste money. Inventiveness is accomplished through the combination of materials to create a narrative related to society and consumption patterns today. As for personal expressiveness, my sculpture represents how I view the world. I have created a unique piece that draws on tension between nature and culture. By crumbling garbage and adding wire to my sculpture, texture and line are created, maintaining a sense of rhythm. Furthermore, the repetition of waste, shape, and form throughout my sculpture keeps the viewer’s eyes from leaving my piece. During the construction of my sculpture, I became aware of the sensuous experiences in my work. These include non-visual qualities including textures, sounds, and smells. Textures are formed through the layering of packaging, receipts, and advertisements, as well as pieces that jet out using wire. These layers and the crumbling of waste add dimension to my overall piece. Likewise, the pieces of wood I used give my piece a sense of roughness while the rocks give it a smooth feeling. Sounds can be heard as the sculpture is flipped and sand passes through one end to the other. With regard to smells, as I was carving the driftwood and tree branches, several distinct smells were given off. These sensuous aspects added to my overall experience as they appeared through the construction of my sculpture and continue to appear within the finished product. This sculptures use natural materials and reinforce the relationship between humans and nature as we interact on a daily basis. Humans are similar to nature in that we both go through growth stages and later decay. Through working with natural materials, one can further understand and appreciate the environment and all that it has to offer. Being an outdoor enthusiast, I have always loved working with natural materials to see what I can piece together and create. This sculpture also stands to reflect a rejuvenation of dead materials as I work and combine materials to create a new meaning. This piece has reflected personal growth in a couple of cases. First, by working with natural materials repeatedly, I have become more comfortable with them. I have learned what some materials found in nature can and cannot do. Natural materials have a lot of character and are full of diversity. I have learned that it is harder to find materials in nature when you know exactly what size or shape you are looking for compared to just venturing out to see what you come across and work with. Nature is organic and the chances of finding that “piece” are slim to none. I have also learned that working with nature takes time and much patience, especially when locating materials. Setting my final piece on a beach, helps to contribute to its overlying message. The setting helps to support and suggest further meaning of a sculpture. Many works of art tend to respond to a particular space or cultural climate. Placing my hourglass sculpture on the beach spoke to visitors who would come to the beach with intentions of relaxing or simply connecting with the natural work and escaping from the processed work and the hustle bustle. Placing it on the beach created a sense of misplacement as the packaging, receipts, and advertisements on my sculpture take over the natural world overtime as depicted within my sculpture. As one would stumble upon my sculpture on the beach, he/she would be drawn in to see closely what the deeper meaning was within this constructed piece. I feel a beach setting is the perfect setting for it as the consumer world depicted in my sculpture further clashes with the pristine look of the beach. Those that go to the beach tend to be in no hurry, and this would be a perfect place for the public to take time to reflect on my sculpture and notice how the excess packaging is taking over, and in a sense, depleting the natural world. Furthermore, placing it on the beach in comparison to a shopping centre, does not risk it being drowned by the competing consumer world as people simply miss it. Positioning my sculpture on the beach would be the right choice since those that go to the beach tend to see the aesthetic and beauty of nature and would be instantly drawn to my work. While nature is seen as the “untouched” world, in contrast, culture is the world that has been influenced and shaped by human beings. As a result, nature and culture should never be mixed, but rather be left separated apart from one another. My sculpture aims to engage in an issue that directly affects our lives whether we are conscious or not with the intention of provoking curiosity, suggesting dialogue and igniting debate, while also encouraging people to take a moment from their busy lives to think about their personal consumption patterns. I hope to get individuals thinking over what their actions may be doing to the earth and the impact they may have on poorer nations by consuming in an manner that for some seems to be “uncontrollable”. In conclusion, my final sculpture depicts a notion of cutting back on consumer goods and using what is already available, while working towards a bright and prosperous future. As I demonstrate in the collection of natural and recycled materials, it comes back to the three R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle.


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