By MEGHAN LYNCH PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN GRUEN
Of all garden art, the sort that’s made of salvaged materials seems most akin to the garden itself. Both are a patchwork, a piecing together of things that lived another life. A favorite plant had its start in a distant greenhouse or a friend’s border, before it became yours; old tools, chipped china, and other “junk” served some ordinary purpose, before an artist picked them up. And what of those artists, who patch together broken things, use every bit of any material, see new possibilities in color, shape, texture, form? Aren’t they just like gardeners, with their knack for saving and creating, for celebrating new life? Here’s a taste of what you’ll find, and who you’ll meet, when you go looking for salvage art. (For artists’ contact information, see “Getting in Touch,” page 25.)
Linda Hoffman is a sculptor, poet, and organic farmer. With ordinary trunk sections from fallen trees she celebrates both the spirit and science of nature (opposite and below). Removing the decayed wood to expose the inner curve of the tree, she highlights with chisel marks and gold leaf its pattern of growth. Some see a hero’s pose in the sculptures’ shapes: others, “tree harps,” a phrase first used by Thoreau in Walden. Either way, Hoffman helps us appreciate the resilient beauty of trees.
An old ladle and bits of china combine in a moon-faced stake (right) made by Hadidjah Shortridge. Schooled in anthropology, she views the world with a soft spot for “discarded, unloved, tired objects,” which she uses in sculptures, portraits, and small ornaments. She and birdhouse artist David Britton are members of the Cracked Pots group of salvage artists (www.crackedpots.org), based in Portland, Oregon.
David Britton, of Tigard, Oregon, has a practical name for his purposeful garden ornaments: “Functional Birdhouses from Old Things.” which is just what they are, Red faucet handles and copper wire add a flower-vine flourish to the antique bead board facade of this scrap wood house.
Mosaic artist Valerie Fuqua finds some of the material for her recycled work herself, searching thrift shops and trash piles. “I’ve found everything from beautiful vintage china to expensive Venetian glass tile,” she says. “It’s amazing what people will throw out.” Like many salvage artists, she also receives material from sharp-eyed friends and neighbors. For instance, this flowerpot includes pieces of a damaged stained-glass light fixture that her mother-in-law carefully dismantled. An expert in arranging colors and shapes, Fuqua also chooses new materials for her mosaics. This pot is 100 percent recycled.
Madeleine Lord cuts and welds scrap metal of all sorts, to make all sorts of art–from this four-foot-tall pastel iris (above) to small-scale rugged city skylines to a schoolyard installation of silhouettes copied from the children’s drawings. Her work is delicate and bold, intricate and simple–a unique and lively fine art.
On December 7, 1941, Fred Conlon’s grandfather witnessed firsthand the attack on Pearl Harbor. “War happens so suddenly,” he would say. “Peace moves slowly.” More than 50 years later, seeing a pile of surplus World War II army helmets and recalling his grandfather’s still true words, Conlon created his first scrap metal animal, a turtle (below). Since then he has expanded his line of repertoire to include propane-tank flying pigs (above), Gnome-Be-Gones (opposite) and many more metal-part creatures. Be it friendly or fiendish, they all pack a punch of personality.