Where art meets recyling

September 16, 2010
By Alison Hawkes

Here’s an event worth going to Friday night. A little while ago I took a tour of the waste transfer station in Visitacion Valley where all the city’s trash goes before it’s hauled off to Livermore. It was an olfactory-opening experience, and made me realize at a visceral level how important it is to recycle our waste stream.

Well, you can visit the dump tomorrow night at 401 Tunnel Ave. Not exactly the dump itself, but the artists in residence who work there and have scavenged through the incoming trash looking for tidbits of beauty. I had the chance to meet the two artists, who will be showcasing their finished work before the next crop of incoming artists takes their stab.

Val Britton will be showcasing her paper collages.

Val Britton and Zachary Royer Schulz are both enthusiastic and talented. Britton created a lot of paper out of shredded dump materials and made huge collages. Schulz became fascinated by all the discarded wood and plastic toys and began making playful sculptures. Enough said, you have to go see it for yourself.

When I met them, they were frantically trying to finish their projects in time for the public exhibition. The lure of the trash trucks made it hard for them to buckle down. “I spend so much time scavenging, I don’t get work done,” said Britton.”You get lost in there for hours, especially when you find things. Time management has been hard.”

In their studio, a room around the corner from where the public unloads trash from pick-up trucks and haulers, they’d managed to accumulate piles of discarded objects to tickle their fancy.”It’s interesting to think of this as a kind of ecology,” said Schulz, who explained the spring versus fall rhythms of trash (in the spring it’s a lot of stuff from garages and attics, while the fall is drywall time).

The work was not without its hazards. They had to dodge trucks and forklifts, as they quickly scanned mounds of materials looking for gems. “You feel very small in the space,” said Britton. “But you gotta to go for it. A minute later the guys push it away.”

Zachary Scholz likes to make scultpures out of wood and plastic toys.

They grew as artists in the process.

“I had a different idea about the kind of work I’d be doing when I came in,” said Schulz. “There were weird discoveries, like how much wood comes through here and disposable plastic toys. I’ve been using wood and toys to engage a sense of play and childlike interaction.”

Above all, they discovered a new appreciation in the value of junk.

The artist in residency program is supported by Recology, San Francisco’s waste management company. The exhibition will be held Friday (5-9pm) and Saturday(1-5pm) at 401 Tunnel Ave. Work by all artists will be viewable by appointment the week of September 20th. Call for appointment 415-330-0747.

Scraps giveaway: any scavenged material not used is donated to other artists.

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