Upcycling Is Sustainable Art: What, Where, And How To Collect, Buy What You Love!

Our climate is in peril. Particularly unavoidable as we are currently feel the aftermath of the Canadian wildfires first hand here in New York City. This is why we decided to highlight artists and designers who express their love of the environment by up-cycling and using sustainable materials in their various art forms. Recycling materials that  most likely would have gone unused or thrown away. Artists are using “stuff” “garbage” “debris” a second chance, a new life, rendering itself useful, preventing from ending up in a landfill.  Ask yourself,  how might I reuse or make something out of what I am discarding?” The artwork included hopefully will help you to reflect on that question. 

Below is a free sneak preview of some of the artist that the Real Art Muse featured in her paid Museletter. You can sign up for it here.

El Anatsui is a Ghanaian sculptor and artist based in Nigeria and considered to be one of the most highly acclaimed African Artists. Through the reuse of materials, he interrogates the impacts of colonialism and how it has degraded our environment through excessive consumption and waste. Most recently, we saw one of his metal wall tapestries featured at the TEFAF New York Art Fair at the Park Avenue Armory in May. His piece, “Untitled (2020),” is made up of found metal objects to create a tapestry, wall mural sculpture. He takes refuse aluminum bottle caps making strips weaving into a cascading fabric which shimmers with light. His work was presented by Edward Tyler Nahem at TEFAF Creative Spaces. You can see other work by El Anatsui at Goodman Gallery and the Jack Shainman Gallery, as well as in the February 2022 Black Art & History Museletter.

Kambel Smith is a 32-year-old self-taught artist who has autism. He uses found cardboard to recreate landmarks, from the Flatiron building to the Chrysler building. His artwork is exhibited at SHRINE, which is curated by Chris Byrne, and was also featured at last month’s Contemporary Art Fair, NADA, in New York. Byrne also facilitated Smith’s presentation at the fair.

Amy Brener is a Canadian who lives in New York as sculptor, conceptual artist and assistant professor of art at Hamilton College. Her artwork has debuted around the world and been featured in prestigious publications. Her work, “Omni-Kit Wall Doll, 2023,” which is made of tissue paper, PVA adhesive and miscellaneous objects, was on display at last month’s Contemporary Art Fair, NADA, in New York. You can also see her work at the Jack Barrett Gallery

Bhen Alan is a Filipino multidisciplinary artist and fullbright scholar who earned his Masters in Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. He uses traditional Filipino weaving practices to create mixed-media projects that feature found objects like rattan, bamboo leaves, industrial fences and more. His work explores his identity as a queer Filipino man, aiming to preserve his culture and its traditions. His work is featured at the art space dedicated to showcasing AAPI artist, Ontopo, is an off-site development platform for art production and performance, which is curated by Jon Santos. Bhen Alan’s pieces, “‍Kanne Arsag, ‍2021-22” and “Balulang 2, 2020” were on display at last month’s Contemporary Art Fair, NADA, in New York.

Rob Strati is an artist based in Nyack, New York who has a bachelor of arts in Art History. His work has been exhibited internationally at now-defunct Los Angeles’ Sherry Frumkin Gallery, San Francisco’s Catharine Clark Gallery, Columbus’ The Wexner Center for the Arts, New York’s International Print Center and more. He is best-known for his porcelain work titled, “Fragmented, 2020,” part of his famous porcelain projects, which was on display at the Focus Art Fair at Chelsea Industrial last month. Strati upcycles broken plates by drawing the same ornate designs into illustrations creating a new art piece.

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