Story by DAVID WALLACE // Photos by SARAH A. MILLER // May/June 2017
Restaurants have been a part of my life for five decades. I have cooked, cleaned, served and tended bar in restaurants. I have managed, owned and operated food establishments. Food has taught me a lot.
Currently, I am a server at a Tyler, Texas, eatery. When I approach diners, guests often recognize me as “that guy from IN Magazine” or “that artist who lives downtown.” I love creating art from discarded items. I see new potential in the common stuff people throw away.
What is art? Art is subjective. Art has many definitions. It is difficult for everyone to agree on a single interpretation of art. Art is generally accepted as creative or imaginative. Art is an expression of emotion and inner qualities.
For me, art is playing. Art is fun. Art is having a good time! We all need to take time to play.
Recently, I engaged some residents at Atria Willow Park, an independent-living community, in the process of making art from trash. They were very enthusiastic.
We cut packing Styrofoam into tiny pieces and used little plastic cups, lids, straws and empty food containers — all items of trash.
I gave each participant a small piece of canvas. They glued these small items on their canvas in a random style. Class participants made a total of nine pieces. Each was unique. I joined each piece to form one larger piece.
I covered the combined collage with a heavy coat of latex wall paint. Latex wall paint adheres to and covers almost everything. It is virtually odorless, dries very quickly and is easy to clean up with soap and water.
I chose black paint to cover the piece. Every room needs some black in it. The eye is always drawn to black. When the eye encounters black, it takes a rest and the aperture opens.
One of my favorite artists, Louise Nevelson, created a very impressive body of work using black. Ms. Nevelson was a Russian immigrant who passed away in 1988, at age 88. She mostly made art from scraps of wood painted in one color. Her art is monochromatic and textural. She was quite prolific. Some of her works are found in the Smithsonian. She is one of my greatest inspirations!
The most difficult step was making sure every bit of the surface got covered by the paint. I used a large brush to cover larger surfaces and a tiny brush to push the paint into the small nooks and crannies.
It took multiple attempts to cover the art completely. After the first layer of paint dried, I saw the places I missed. I just kept looking at the piece from every angle and adding paint.
After this piece, the class got back together and made another piece of art. This time it was covered with white paint and served as a companion to the black one.
The two pieces together were submitted and accepted into an exhibition at Gallery Main Street in Tyler. It was even voted as the Best of Show. The artists at Atria Willow Park who made the pieces were thrilled.
A jury selects which submissions are included in shows. The entry process is on the gallery’s website. Contact the gallery for more details. Beverly Abell, gallery director, is helpful and friendly.
I am thrilled the art was selected and received an award. It was so much fun creating the art together. One thing I’ve learned is what really matters is getting together for a good time.