For centuries, artists have reclaimed items to turn them into their art: whether it’s reusing canvases (as X-rays demonstrate almost all the old masters did) or incorporating found items into sculptures, such as pop artist Robert Rauschenberg’s creative way of reusing items ranging from bicycles to roosters. These artists, though, take it to a whole new level.
Named by TripAdvisor as the second wackiest attraction in America (second only to a toilet seat museum in San Antonio that, ironically, has no public restrooms), Carhenge is probably the best known work of art on this list. Located in Alliance in Western Nebraska, this car sculpture by Jim Reinders incorporates 38 automobiles into the life-sized replica of the famous stone monoliths in Stonehenge, England. Future generations will assume it had something to do with the annual progression of the sun.
9. Animals and People Made from Discarded Plastic Parts
Anyone who has a child (or has been one) knows that plastic toys don’t last forever. However, even after they go to the landfill, the broken pieces can last for decades, even centuries. Enter artist Robert Bradford, who turns such misfit toys into playful, colorful works of art. His life-sized and supersized sculptures of animals, people, and architecture utilize discarded plastic items such as toys, brushes, combs, and more. If Bradford has his way, these works of art will be truly immortal in a way we all hope landfills won’t be.
8. Portraits Made from Found Items
Originally a textile artist, Jane Perkins moved to reclaimed plastics. In her fun, colorful creations, she draws inspiration from objects found in the trash. Starting with a large photo or artwork, she matches up and attaches colored objects such as buttons, bobbles and fragments, to create 3-D versions of such classics as the Mona Lisa and Girl with a Pearl Earring and portraits of people like Queen Elizabeth II of England and President Barack Obama. Her art is inspired by bowerbirds, who collect objects like shells, pieces of glass, stones and discarded plastic to turn their nests into living works of art.
7. Angels Made from Guns
In the 1990s, as gun violence plagued Los Angeles, artist Lin Evola (then Evola-Smidt) developed a creative solution. She convinced L.A. residents to relinquish their guns, which were then melted down and used to create statues of angels. What began as a small project grew larger, with Evola increasing the size of the statues to be featured in parks. Her 13-foot-tall angel, “The Renaissance Peace Angel,” was moved to Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She has since expressed an interest in a global version of her project, which would decrease the “proliferation of small firearms, light artillery and other weapons of war.” How beautiful would that be?
6. Realistic Animals from Discarded Plastic
The “reclaimed creations” of artist Sayaka Ganz are so stunningly graceful that it’s hard to believe they are made from things that someone threw out. Composed from thrift store plastics, these astonishing works are inspired by the Shinto belief that all objects and organisms have spirits. Her artist’s statement says that she strives to help each object to transcend its origin by being integrated into organic forms “that are alive and in motion.” And when you see one of her horse sculptures galloping across a gallery, it seems she’s achieved her goal.