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Studios on the Park's Life Refurbished transforms refuse into art

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More than 4 pounds a day—that's how much trash the average American produces. All told, it's more than 1,600 pounds a year for each man, woman, and child in the U.S.

STILETTO HEELS Larry Le Brane repurposed two stiletto knives, fused glass drawer pulls, luggage straps, found objects, metal, and wood to create Towers of Bobble. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • STILETTO HEELS Larry Le Brane repurposed two stiletto knives, fused glass drawer pulls, luggage straps, found objects, metal, and wood to create Towers of Bobble.

If you want to see some refuse diverted from the landfill and transformed into remarkably beautiful and inventive art, head to Studios on the Park in Paso Robles for its new show, Life Refurbished, which hangs through June 27. A second opening reception is scheduled for Saturday, June 4.

"We had about 100 submissions," explained curator Jordan Hockett, "and almost every artist who submitted got something in. A few pieces were so huge we couldn't fit them, but even those artists already had a piece in the show. We just had to narrow it down to make it all fit."

All the works have one thing in common: Artists were required to use some reclaimed material in their work, whether it be wood, metal, glass, ceramics, or fabric.

PISTASHIO PANACHE In Norse Berserkers, Hellie Blythe softens the Viking myth of fierce warriors by constructing her seafarers from pistachio shells with googly eyes, though they still sail an animal jaw ship with the head of an Englishman mounted on the bow. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PISTASHIO PANACHE In Norse Berserkers, Hellie Blythe softens the Viking myth of fierce warriors by constructing her seafarers from pistachio shells with googly eyes, though they still sail an animal jaw ship with the head of an Englishman mounted on the bow.

"We wanted the artists to do anything in any media as long as there were elements that were reused, recycled, or repurposed materials incorporated in their art some way," Hockett added.

The results are fantastic. Larry Le Brane created Tower of Bobble, a shoe fetishist's dream. The platform shoes feature fused glass drawer pulls, luggage straps, found objects, metal, and wood, as well as two stiletto knives as the heels. In the front of the platforms are Mexican musician figurines playing with a mirrored ball backdrop behind them, which is inside a toothy mouth. You have to see it to believe it.

Another really whimsical piece is Hellie Blythe's Norse Berserkers, a Viking ship made from an animal mandible filled with Vikings whose faces are empty pistachio shells with googly eyes. The ship sails across a watercolor backdrop.

All told, there are 32 artists and about 60 pieces. Only one piece was disqualified for not adhering to the rules, "but that artist had another piece that was more on-point that got in," Hockett noted.

GEAR AND GADGETS Janet Smith’s wreath of vintage kitchen implements—Full Circle: Then & Now—features out-of-date mixers, graters, mashers, ladles, and more. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • GEAR AND GADGETS Janet Smith’s wreath of vintage kitchen implements—Full Circle: Then & Now—features out-of-date mixers, graters, mashers, ladles, and more.

In part, the show hopes to remind viewers of our trashy ways. Americans generate three times more trash than the global average. A lot of what we discard could be repurposed.

"I'm a painter myself, and so I'm aware of how expensive materials can be," Hockett said.

Instead of the artists spending money on new materials for each piece, Studios on the Park wanted the artists to demonstrate "ingenuity" and consider the "environmental" consequences of their work.

STEAMPUNK ROBOT Philip W. Henry’s wood and copper sculpture has a Victorian-era look and an industrialization period vibe, as if you can almost hear the whirring of gears about to make it come to life. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • STEAMPUNK ROBOT Philip W. Henry’s wood and copper sculpture has a Victorian-era look and an industrialization period vibe, as if you can almost hear the whirring of gears about to make it come to life.

"We hoped they would look at what they're doing, but in a new way," Hockett continued.

Another charming piece is Philip W. Henry's Motor Man I, a sculpture made of wood and copper. It's got a steampunk flair—a little robot that looks like it's a flipped switch away from coming to life.

Likewise, Janet Smith's Full Circle: Then & Now captures a bygone era in the kitchen, with hand-crank mixers, mashers, and tea strainers, all shaped into a decorative wreath.

Does Hockett have a favorite piece?

"That's so difficult to say because of the wide variety of mediums. It's hard to judge between textiles and woodcarving and assemblage and mosaic—the show is so diverse. In general, that's what we were trying to do with the exhibition, to feature a really nice diversity."

OUR LADY OF BROKEN TEACUPS Brenda Campbell Steffensen created this religious iconographic portrait, Fatima, with broken china, beads, and 24K gold smalti. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • OUR LADY OF BROKEN TEACUPS Brenda Campbell Steffensen created this religious iconographic portrait, Fatima, with broken china, beads, and 24K gold smalti.

The variety is wide indeed, with a cast of well-known and mostly local artists—Barbara Rosenthal, Barry Lundgren, Betsy Quinn, Brenda Radtke, Brenda Steffensen, Carolyn Chambers, Chas Higginbottom, Cheryl Hockett, Daniel Parks, Debbie Sidenberg, Debra Jury, Jeanne Tierno, Jenny Pujol, Jerry Bradley, Karen Browdy, Lolita Bowman, Lynee Sapere, Kathi Battles, Mark Jones, Mary Strawn, Melinda Forbes, Miguel Pujol, Nancy Ayres, Nancy Vest, Peg Grady, Stacy Williams, Susan Naughton, Violet Brooks, and Wendy Smith.

"Hopefully people will come see it," Hockett said. "It's up through the end of June. And hopefully people will come and see all the other artists we have in residence."

There's a lot to see at Studios on the Park, including trash transformed to treasure. What's in your wastebasket? Δ

Contact Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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