By Paul Williams
If ever there was a time that the cliché ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ ever fit, it was at the art exhibit at the Monmouth Museum on Halloween.
Forty-eight pieces of garbage hung from the walls and the ceiling, yet were constructed in such a manner that they appeared to be anything but what we put out to the curb every week.
Upon walking in, a busted cell phone that was transformed into a mobile, held together by a bent steel wire, hung overhead. The construct, the work of Carl Connest, slowly twirled around, as if it were beckoning you to traverse down the steps and observe the other works of art throughout the museum.
It was a small turnout on this holiday afternoon, but it was well worth the trip for the few who searched for a treat created from someone else’s thrown-away items.
“I like the idea that art can be made from trash. It’s nice to see people salvage what they can and turn it into a form of expressing themselves,” said Jane Thorner, 48, of North Plainfield. “I came here today specifically because I like found object exhibits.”
Thorner travels around the entire tri-state area searching solely for found objects exhibits, and was pleased with the presentation that the museum had to offer. “I’m glad this one isn’t too small,” Thorner said. “I’ve been to a few that only had 15 works. This is a nice size. I’m happy with the work, very creative.”
All the pieces were indeed fascinating. Along the far wall of the museum laid an entire city constructed from used compact disks, bread ties, batteries, egg cartons, and film caps. All that was missing was a Santa Clause and train and it would have been able to be sold for well over $100 at your local Hallmark store.
Don’t tell that to Jeff Becker, who created the masterpiece. On a card next to the display, he wrote “Since my art is made from trash, I price it accordingly.”
In the middle of the room sat a spider, formed from used hardware components of a computer, with a few legs raised fittingly seeming to be moving toward its prey on a day that many children would dress up as a spooky replica of it.
All the other walls were lined with owls made out of mouse traps, nails and washers that resembled horses, and toy dolls that were shaped into cats and dogs, a jungle of creativity as real and cheerful as the corkscrew that hung near the entrance whose arms were pointed upward in jubilation, the work of Lazloo.
The artwork was not all fun and games however, as in one of the corners sat a work from Carol Rosen, which consisted of a pair of charred baby shoes over a bed of spikes, titled 'Holocaust.' It served as a chilling reminder that art can express as much pain as it can joy and humor, something that a former art reviewer understood.
"I can appreciate the variety that we have in here. I'm more of a traditional artist myself because I don't consider myself all that creative, but I can appreciate the found objects displays," said Eileen Kennedy, 55, of Red Bank, a Pratt graduate.
"I'm impressed by the show. It's always interesting to see artists express themselves in ways I couldn't imagine myself doing," Kennedy said.
On the way out of the exibit, next to the guest/comment book, there was a small statement from Harriet Tough, the juror for the exhibit. A portion of it read, "As the world continues to generate more and more stuff (unfortunately) we will continue to be delighted (fortunately) by the work of theses crafts."
Next time you go to throw out an old shoelace, toss away a rusted nail, recycle your dead battery or ball up your worn T-shirt into the garbage can, try to find the nearest found objects exhibit near you. You'll be amazed at what can be created from our waste. One man's trash is another man's treasure indeed.