Northwest Postcard: Olympia gallery features art from recycled materials


by Ed Muir

Posted on January 14, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 14 at 2:55 PM

Olympia, WA -- We all know recycling is good for the environment. But what does all that stuff become in its second act? how about art?

"These babies are all made from plastic bags," artist Diane Kurzyna, aka Ruby Reusable, says as she points out arwork of hers.

Bil Fleming shows off a lamp he made: "On top I've used an old toilet valve."

"This is a painting made out of reject paint," says George Kurzman.

And Pat Tassoni shows off one of his works, "Seven-foot replica of the Seattle's Space Needle made out of recycled parts."

These Olympia, Washington artists found a home for their offbeat art at the Matter Gallery.

"It's the kind of art that I really like."

Owner Jo Gallaugher says this is one of only three contemporary fine art galleries in the country that exclusively sells art made from recycled materials. It's also locally-produced; Gallaugher is currently working with 125 artists from around the Northwest.

Gallaugher says, "We have a lot of talented people in our midst, a lot of Evergreen graduates. It's kind of a microcosm of people using recycled material."

Much of the art here is functional too. That Space Needle is also a lamp. Take a load off on a chair and stool made of old rifle barrels. And Fleming's lamp with that toilet valve is also mobile. Like many artists here, he mostly works with found objects.

"It's things I salvage out of dumpsters, people give it to me, I find at roadside, some things I buy at flea markets," he says

But more than just saving money or being green, these artists appreciate recycled materials for their character.

"Rather than working from a completely blank canvas, it's stimulating for me to respond to the characteristics of the old material," Kurzman notes.

Tassoni says that one of the hubcaps in his Space Needle replica "was probably the dirtiest one I'd ever worked with in my life."

But the artists do the cleaning themselves, so you can enjoy the materials when they become art.