New exhibit in Long Island City features art made with reusable materials

Photos courtesy of Materials for the Arts


Celebrate Earth Month at Materials for the Arts (MFTA) in LIC and explore how common objects can be transformed into works of art and given a new purpose.

“CONTEMPORARY REUSE 2019” gallery exhibition – now on view until May 17 – is an annual show featuring the works of local artists who integrate reusable materials into their creative practice.

“Every day is Earth Day at Materials for the Arts! We are the unit of the Department of Cultural Affairs that saves millions of dollars of amazing materials from going into landfills every year,” said MFTA Director of Education and Exhibition Curator, John Cloud Kaiser.

“We donate those materials to the arts organizations, schools, and community centers of NYC that continue to make this the creative city we love.”

Viewers can ponder the meanings behind several diverse masterpieces created by these five artists.

Sol’Sax has transformed milk crates, cans, and sports equipment into shrines, while Ian Trask’s beautifully bound spheres or “spores” capture the contrast of plastic colored chords tangled together with natural fiber materials in an intricate display.

“As an artist, I try to find inspiration in waste,” said Trask, “and for years I’ve been using my art as a way to connect with my community. Most of the materials I use are donated by the people around me….”


Yasmin Gur’s works are also created from reclaimed stuff. “In using these weathered materials, I am appropriating their histories, the wear and tear of the elements, the bending, rips, flaking, and rust, to create a wordless connection, a bloom, a burst, an outgrowth, to evoke a living process of an organism or plant,” she explained.

Annie Varnot’s sculptures are made from repurposed drinking straws. The material and forms address the negative effects of plastics on our ecosystem.

“While mulling over the damaging effects of plastics and consumer culture on the natural landscape, I imagine the scientific production of a landscape,” she said. “As an artist playing the role of scientist, in these sculptures, the mysterious lab samples explode into synthetic wonderlands composed not only of repurposed drinking straws, but also of miscellaneous debris.”

The Volmeur Collection transforms mold-damaged 35mm slides from the CERN labs in Geneva, one of the most prestigious in the world, into amazing multi-colored prints of abstract scenes.

“Alongside around 450 000 perfectly preserved photographic snapshots, a few hundred slides illustrating the remarkable construction of the electron-positron collider (LEP) had been forgotten,” artist Matteo Volpi noted.

“This exhibit is about the living nature of the materials that we make art with; their past, present, and where they go in the future,” said Kaiser. “This is all the more important to think about in terms of sustainability during Earth Month.”

MFTA is located at 33-00 Northern Blvd., third floor, in Long Island City.

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