Stories, Musings & The Vision Thing

Tag: found art

The Lang’s Creative Vision

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“Pickup Sticks” by Judith and Richard Lang

Whatever an artist’s creative vision – they see the world through a different lens. Yes, some want to create an aesthetic experience and some want to make us think… or do both. I’ve always been curious about found art, those random bits and pieces of our lives tossed aside, left by the road or lying on the beach – only to be resurrected as art by a curious eye and inventive hand.

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“Bosky Dell” by Judith and Richard Lang

But plastic? It’s so commonplace we don’t even think about it – although we probably couldn’t survive without it. Still, it seems to be a strange medium for an artist to work with.


“Bottles” by Judith and Richard Lang

Plastic is so trivial it’s just part of our disposable lifestyle. That’s what we do, we cast it away without a moment’s thought. Or maybe recycle it. Either way, an amazing amount of the stuff winds up in our oceans.


Point Reyes National Seashore from the National Park Service site

By a fluke of the ocean currents there’s a constant stream of plastic bits washing ashore at Kehoe Beach, part of Point Reyes National Seashore. That’s where our story begins.


“Wreath Hairclips” by Judith and Richard Lang

This is a tale of two California artists, Judith and Richard Lang, who make art from the plastic debris they find as they wander the seashore at Kehoe Beach. Smithsonian Magazine describes how they got started:

In 1999, Richard and Judith had their first date on this Northern California beach. Both were already accomplished artists who had taught watercolor classes at the University of California and shown their work in San Francisco galleries. And both (unbeknown to each other) had been collecting beach plastic for years.


Richard and Judith Lang’s first creative vision – photo from the Mountain Film site

Richard: “This is a love story. Our passion is not only plastic but each other. We could never have imagined, on that day, what an incredible life would unfold—picking up other people’s garbage.”

Judith: “But it’s pretty sad to see this plastic strewn all over the beach. And it’s so recent. I remember going to the beach as a child; I never saw plastic. This problem has washed into our lives—and it’s not going to wash out any time soon.”

There are several videos about the Langs and their work. I like the one below the best, it’s well shot, nicely edited and they talk about their artistic journey, their found medium and why they try to make beautiful work from all that plastic junk.

I like what Judith says in the video about thinking of each plastic shard as a brush stroke. It gets to the artist’s creative vision to see several things as true at once – which gives their work depth and punch – drawing us in and making us think. We’re struck by the beauty of the images and, as we muse about what they represent, are fascinated and repelled at the same time. I especially like their chroma series because the color palette takes the abstraction to a deeper level. The chroma series also recalls Louise Nevelson’s sculpted wood assemblages.


“Chroma Blue” by Judith and Richard Lang


“Chroma Red” by Judith and Richard Lang


“Chroma Purple” by Judith and Richard Lang

For me, what’s powerful about their creative effort is seeing them think outside the box. And, as artists, discovering a way to fashion work that’s surprising, moving, and meaningful.

Does their work have that affect on you too? How do you feel about what they’re doing? Do you connect with their art? Leave a comment.

Mac Premo and The Art of Identity

Mac Premo and some of his stuff

What makes us who we are? Is it how we act? Our behavior towards others? Perhaps our thoughts and values? How others see us?  Maybe so, but these abstractions are like vapor and can be hard to hold on to.  

Another way of looking at identity is to focus on the things we choose.  Our stuff.  And yes, things have their own fascination, meaning and psychic value.   

Mac Premo is all about stuff.  His bio describes him as “a professional stuffmaker.”  He uses objects collected over the years to create his art and craft award-winning commercials.  A sculptor, fabricator, designer and animator, his interests and off-beat humor seem to feed off each other.  Here’s a link to a wry video he made: 2011 Year in Review.  

Matt’s Dumpster

The year 2011 also found him in a quandary. He was leaving his beloved studio, moving to a smaller space and that meant a lot of his stuff would end up in the dumpster.  So he turned adversity into art with a work he calls The Dumpster Project.

Matt Documenting an Object for The Dumpster Project

The Dumpster Project is a record of about 500 objects he’s collected and saved over the years.  Each of them photographed, cataloged with notes about what they mean to him and posted on his blog – and also fabricated as part of a massive collage.  

Matt made this to describe how the dumpster would look

Mac made this sample in a suitcase to show people what he was going to do, hoping someone would say, “I like it, here’s a dumpster” for The Dumpster Project.  And someone did.

As he says in a video describing the project, “I think we imbue meaning to objects and subsequently those objects become a record of who you are.”  Or maybe, we just have a lot of stuff…

Here’s a wider view of the interior of the dumpster and a portrait of the artist and his work.

Brooklyn, New York is home to The Dumpster Project.  It’s been on view at the DeKalb Market and had a brief stay in Miami.

Here’s the dumpster next to Mac’s new studio in Brooklyn.  You can see more images of the interior here.  A Highbrow Magazine story and an ABC News profile fill in a few more details.

I like how Mac Premo has tried to plumb the depths of identity with his Dumpster Project.  By binding his life experiences to the objects he’s displayed, he’s opened a door into his quirky persona while inviting us to think about the trappings of our own lives – and all the objects that define us. It’s a murky and complicated world, the world of things, and it’s fun to be able to explore it with fresh eyes.