Cathy Ehrler upcycles trash into meticulously created mosaics and assemblage art. See more of her portfolio by visiting her website.
“Trash Artist” wasn’t exactly the title I was looking for when I started my career as an artist.
Creating watercolors, acrylic and oil paintings of any subject seemed to be the way to go. I enjoyed being in nature and landscapes were a popular subject for me. I would often set up my easel, only to find litter in my field of vision. This made me realize that someday the world would be covered with trash on land and sea. Then an idea came to me—why not experiment and explore ways to find artistic merit in the trash itself?
First, I explored the comparisons between trash and nature in a series I called Environmental Reverberations. These paintings depict the repetition of shapes and color in our environment. They show the echoes that repeat over and over in both the lushness of natural subjects and the excesses of our waste.
Next came a series I designated as Trashy Art on Means Street. This collection consists of 52 works made up of trash I picked up on the street near my home each day. After photographing the assemblage, the trash would be either recycled or reused.
After working with trash as a medium, I realized I could create beautiful, permanent artwork from what I found.
Later, from the stacks of completed watercolors and canvases accumulating in my studio, it occurred to me that rather than tossing them, I could cut them up and make a new series of assemblages that were much more exciting than the original watercolors.
Currently my work is focused on mosaics made with trash and recycling. These works consist of thousands of pieces cut tediously by hand from various trash materials—cartons, cans, old CDs, polystyrene—you name it. Thy are glued to a recycled background or substrate.
I look for colors and patterns in the garbage that capture the beauty of nature. The completed mosaic pieces feature mostly florals and landscapes. By taking a closer look, you will see that these works are made of bits and pieces of trash, some from products that are likely familiar.
We all need an occasional reminder that motivates us in our quest to continue treating Mother Earth with dignity and respect. I found my motivation in converting trash and recycling into art. Hopefully the pieces I create can inspire, remind, and motivate each of us to do our part.
I am consciously working to improve my work and the environment at the same time. Please enjoy my art; I hope it makes you smile and appreciate the world we live in.