Old Items Become New Art in ‘EcoSquared’

Old Items Become New Art in ‘EcoSquared’

A piece of driftwood. Automobile glass. Little sponges. Old canvases. A handful of googly eyes. Would you imagine these are the makings of interesting, creative and beautiful art?

They are in the hands of contributors to EcoSquared, the second annual show of upcycled art at Hatch Art House. Tammy Schreiter, owner of the Willy Street gallery, put out the call last year for Wisconsin artists to submit works ranging in size from six to twelve inches square that feature items that are upcycled—put to new use instead of being discarded.

While the thirty-plus works are small, clustered on two walls of the gallery, each one draws the viewer in for a unique experience. It’s a pleasure to contemplate each piece as a work of art, and also fun to then consider the thoughtful and surprising ways the artists used their unconventional materials.

In “Breaking Waves,” body paint artist Christy Grace combined paints with small round sponges to render waves crashing on rocks. Meanwhile, for “On the Rocks,” David Williams took part of a wood pallet and covered it with gesso so he could apply a watercolor scene of a man and woman sitting on rocks near water. Schreiter, too, offers a water scene: “Read Between the Waves” incorporates an old canvas, thesaurus pages, acrylic paint and ink in a beautiful seascape.

Several artists feature natural materials. Terri Lockwood utilized stems and seeds along with wax and resin to create earthy hued scenes of flowers and a chick, while Jay Solwold mixed driftwood, a feather and scrap lumber to make an abstracted bird. And Christine “Onga” Dehlinger turned to bits of Hoya plants, drying and hand-painted them to resemble little jewels or beads on a dark canvas.

A few works may cause you to laugh out loud. In “Octopus Eyeball,” Emily Popp attached a knit eye to sparkly octopus legs, with a smattering of craft-store googly eyes embellishing a blue print backdrop. And Cherie Richter embedded glittery stars into and quotes, flowers and bizarre photos of posed rabbits into smashed car glass in “Fuzzy Bunny Memories.”

Additional standouts are three vibrant and intricately patterned works by Ellen Reuter, who rolled up bits of magazine and catalog pages, then enhanced them with thread and paint and arranged them into interesting geometric patterns. You’ll definitely want to take a look at these works up close.

And that’s one of the coolest things about EcoSquared. Not only is each work on display worth exploring; after seeing the show, you can’t help but look at commonplace materials, wondering what kind of awesome art they could become if given the chance.

EcoSquared runs through January 31 at Hatch Art House, with an opening reception held tomorrow from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information, visit hatcharthouse.com.