At a presentation in Edmonds, about one half hour north of Seattle, Marita Dingus revealed some of the secrets of her approach to materials in her extraordinary art made entirely of recycled materials. Recycled we already knew, but there is a lot more to it than just reclaiming materials.
She explained in a compelling demonstration that she chose materials that were "worthless", if they have any value at all she takes them to the thrift shop she said, holding a metal ring from a lampshade as an example. Her choice of materials is based on durability as well as the fact that they are completely useless in our society. For example, she uses the shiny plastic wrap from Bertoli products, or the spirals from spiral notebooks, or the wire from Boeing airplane construction. Her criteria also includes that ( she was making flowers out of Bertoli shiny wrap and wire as she talked), the wire needs to be easy to bend.
Her own wardrobe is entirely made of recycled clothes and materials, "things get cut up many many times" she said. When she spent several years in Texas, she packed up all of her belongings in large bags made from recycled fabric, and her purse is based on a clorox bottle covered in fabric. She uses "hot sticky glue" and she said, "people say this is not art material why shouldn't it be?"
Marita is truly living close to the earth as well, she raises chickens, and eats their eggs at her home that she shares with her mother ( who also helps with her art) on five acres of old growth woods in Auburn. Her family moved there in the fifties. It is next to the cemetery, at that time the only place that African Americans could live. This is one of her bags below.
All of the talk about our carbon footprints, ecology, global warming, living green. Marita has it all figured out.
We don't have Marita's artistic ability to reclaim only the useless into art, but we can think about every single thing we throw away every day and try to cut it in half, re use it, not use it, or give it to a thrift store. Giving up take outs, plastic bags, and packaged food, even re using paper napkins as toilet paper, every little bit helps. I've tried to save some useless items, like the plastic tops of coffee cups and let them accumulate, waiting for art to emerge. I had the idea of hanging them on my Christmas tree. It didn't quite happen(family objections), but I looked at the plastic tops and lived with them for a long time, as they piled up, confronting my own waste, instead of flinging it out of sight. Of course the theme for Marita is more profound, as an African American she is reclaiming what is considered useless in our society and giving it value as an aesthetic expression.
Here are two of Marita's Water Babies as an inspiration.