Local pre-school saves toys — makes art
Yes, we’re talking trash. The kind you can reclaim, recycle, or reuse. It’s what stirs the imagination of environmental artist Tom Deininger – and what inspired him to bring his unique brand of artmaking to “The Creative City” – West Hollywood, California. With Tom’s expertise in “all things tossed” we asked dozens of children at the prestigious Fountain Day School to save their broken toys for a few weeks, and allow us to “re-purpose” them into a wall sculpture titled, “Through the Eyes of a Child” on the outside of their school. We asked their parents to do the same with milk jugs, detergent containers, broken crates, and generally unrecyclable plastic. It didn’t take long for the collection bins to fill up.
The relief is comprised of 100 % recycled materials, some salvaged from local landfills.
For a salvage artist like Deininger, access to a city dump — or any kind of waste management facility — means hitting the mother lode. Tom and I have worked on a number of “eco-projects” for companies like Fortune Magazine, and NBC Universal, but I had never accompanied him in his search for the perfect pile.
We had an opportunity to “raid the refuse” at the Athens Services MRF (Material Recovery Facility) in the City of Industry, and you’d have thought the artist had won the California Fantasy 5. Tom found wonder—and possibility — in each passing container of junk. He extracted exactly what he needed, and began to plot: garden hose here, doll heads there — the perfect caldron of solid waste stew for a sculpture still in his head.
Through the artist’s eye
By pairing up oddball mixtures of color and shape, somehow, Deininger and his art assistants managed to smash, saw, and screw nearly a thousand minute plastic parts into a cohesive work of art. There is not a speck of paint on these two sculptures, though it may appear that way because of their clever use of color.
From a distance, the piece shows the eyes of a toddler gazing upward, as if to a parent, or the future. A closer look reveals an intricate web of tossed toys and familiar objects that make up the image as a whole: action figures, baby strollers, pool toys, plastic trucks, and detritus from everyday life. A sobering visual message — underscored by the following facts from the eco-file:
- Americans generate 10.5 million tons of plastic waste a year but recycle only 1 or 2 %
- An estimated 14 billion pounds of trash – much of it plastic – is dumped in the world’s oceans every year.
- Nearly every piece of plastic ever made still exists today.
More about Tom…
Deininger is a dedicated environmentalist who educates others about consumer wastefulness and resource overuse through his art. His award-winning installations incorporate trashed plastics, reclaimed wood, broken toys, furniture, and factory overruns – generally unrecyclable waste otherwise destined for city dumps. His work was recently commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution.
“Through the Eyes of a Child” is an environmental art project sponsored by Art on the Outside – a program developed by the City of West Hollywood’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission. For more information, visit the WEHO Arts and Culture page.
A special thanks to: Mrs. Firestone’s Language Arts classes at Lindero Canyon Middle School in Agoura Hills, California, for enthusiastically collecting and contributing hundreds of discarded plastic caps for this project.
Photo Credit: Josh Kaplan, Executive Producer, Good Day L.A. on Fox 11.