Using junk to sculpt a bit of creativity

3 at Carroll high schools are winners in art competition linked to recycling

December 03, 2006|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun Reporter

For Michelangelo and Bernini, marble inspired masterpiece sculptures.

But for three Carroll County high school students, tin boxes, a vinyl record, hundreds of paper clips and glue guns did the trick.

Those materials and other objects scrounged up and scouted for in basements and friends' junk piles were among the winning entries in a recent state sculpture competition hosted by the Maryland Department of the Environment in Baltimore.

The "Rethink Recycling" contest, now in its fifth year, serves as one way the department recognizes America Recycles Day - Nov. 15 - a national campaign that encourages Americans to recycle and buy recycled products.

The Carroll winners were among about 40 entries from 10 high schools throughout the state, according to the department.

"It's a great lead-in to catch people's interest to get the recycling message out there," said David Mrgich, chief of the department's recycling and marketing division. "It gets the word out, and it works."

Hillary Shapiro, 17, a senior at South Carroll High School, won the top prize for a flamingo made of metal, including copper tubing, soda can tabs and hundreds of paper clips.

Century High School sophomore Teresa Fredericks, 15, won "Best Use of Materials" for an abstract consisting of tin and wooden boxes, marbles, book pages and antiques.

And Stephanie Shade, 17, another senior from South Carroll, won the newly introduced "People's Choice Award" - based on the votes of the more than 100 people who attended the contest - for an abstract sculpture of charms and vintage objects that sprouted from a vinyl record.

The students were given basic instructions: Create a sculpture using recycled materials or discarded items, Mrgich said. In doing so, the department hoped to open the artists' - and others' - eyes to ways to decrease waste in their daily lives.

Shapiro said the light popped on above her head one day when her dog, a Samoyed named Lacey, was watching the Animal Planet cable channel. The program featured the birds.

"Oh, I could do a flamingo," Shapiro remembered thinking.

And so, Francesca, as Shapiro called the metal animal she glued and welded together, was born. Parts of an old umbrella served to shape the body. Can tabs, which were donated to the nonsoda drinker, formed the shorter neck feathers, while paper clips made up those on the body. Forks became feet, standing upon a trash-can perch.

Fredericks said she was inspired by American sculptor Joseph Cornell, known for his shadow boxes of old objects and collages. But she couldn't find much in her home.

"I know my grandma always talks about wanting to clean out her basement," said Fredericks, who placed first in a school competition before the state event. So she went to her grandparents' Pennsylvania home and rooted through the "junk in their basement," she said.

Her search produced her shadow boxes, adorned with Matchbox cars, old Christmas lights, light bulbs and pages torn from an old book, among other finds, "to make it look interesting," Fredericks said.

"The arrangement - that was completely her own," said Jeff Sharp, Fredericks' visual arts instructor at Century High, of the sculpture. "She just went off and did it."

Shade said she initially couldn't figure out what to do. Then she broke a glass ceramic mask into pieces. It would become her centerpiece.

From there, she ended up adding a cassette tape, compact disc and parts from a Mr. Potato Head, she said. Her art teacher, Lisa Katz, supplied copper charms, she added.

"Everyone in the class would bring me things," Shade said. She relied on classmates for buttons, buttons and more pearly buttons.

"I just started gluing stuff," Shade said. "I was really happy with how it turned out."

Katz, who said she sees a future sculpture in everything, provided all kinds of materials for the two students' work, including her 5-year-old's old umbrella.

"It forces them to think outside the box," Katz said of the project.

All three students said they were surprised they had won.

"It's one thing to have like two or three people to say your work is good," Shade said. But "it just means a lot," she added, to have several individuals come up and say, "I voted for you."

Shapiro said she enjoyed the challenge of molding metal into a flamingo, despite the burns on her fingers from regular encounters with the hot glue gun.

"I had fun doing it," she said. "I loved it."

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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