Visual Arts

One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Art: "Transitional Artifacts" at Fresh Arts

One of the most cliché sayings is that one man's trash is another's treasure. In the case of the evolving display at Fresh Arts by Houston-based collaborative The Center for Imaginative Cartography and Research, this phrase morphs into "another man's art." Or perhaps it is another man's inspiration as the Center, comprised of the team of Emily Halbardier and Erik Sultzer, are using another man's trash to make a statement on the ever transitioning world in their new exhibition "Transitional Artifacts."

The duo was more or less inspired by trash to create this show. Halbardier and Sultzer live and work together in the Museum District of Houston and had spent many an evening walking the area. What they found was that their neighbors' garbage was full of untapped potential.

"When we proposed this project," says Halberdier, "we had been observing all of this waste and thought it should be used for art material."

There were many items which Halbardier and Sultzer didn't understand why they ended up as trash. A book shelf with minor issues and lawn chairs in perfectly good shape were among some of the garbage items they came across and snatched up. Although they weren't quite sure what they were going to do with these items at first. This is a part of the evolution of this show.

The Center's proposal to Fresh Arts stated that they wanted to turn the gallery into a working studio so that their process for creating art was not only transparent but also given the freedom to grow. Over the course of their six-week run in the gallery, Halbardier and Sultzer will add to the collection of found items in the space and create a living installation.

Their reasons for creating art in this manner is multi-faceted. For one, the team wants to make a statement about the nature of gallery shows.

"With most galleries there is a magic element like all of a sudden there is a show up," says Sultzer.

By allowing the community to come by and see the artists as they create this installation they are pulling back the curtain. With this transparency comes the opportunity to see the exhibition change directions. For example, the couple had planned on draping handmade quilts on the floor and piling found items on top of them but found that it looked too much like a garage sale - not a look they were going for - and so they rethought the display. Ultimately they decided that the found objects needed to be on display higher up for people to want to interact with them, a product of allowing visitors to see the creative process in action. They have since turned some of the chairs they found into pedestals using papier-mâché.

In addition to the upcycled creations, sculptures, drawings and photographs, Halbardier and Sultzer are taking some of the found objects and making pulp-paper casts of them. Lastly, a companion Zine will be available at the closing reception that will chronicle the development of the show as well as fictitious narratives of some of the objects.

Of course in a show that uses refuse as the basis for its composition it would be difficult to not find a commentary on waste, and the fact that this waste is directly tied to Houston, the show could be viewed as making a statement on a Houstonian's propensity to toss away perfectly good items. But that's not the couple's intention.

"We are not trying to get people talking about waste or nature," Halbardier mentions. If thinking about conservationism becomes a part of the dialogue neither artist will be too upset, however. Rather, their intention is to demonstrate how we interact with our objects and to see the potential in it all.

"We want to challenge people's perceptions of art," Halbardier continues, "but in a fun and playful way."

"Transitional Artifacts" is on view at the Fresh Arts Gallery now through August 22. The closing reception will be held on August 22 from 6 - 9 p.m. Free.

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Abby Koenig
Contact: Abby Koenig