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Past, Present and Futuristic: Three Recycling Artists In Los Angeles

Picture of Summer Powers
Summer Powers
Updated: 11 December 2015
Trash art, or junk art, is a subgenre of found art, a trend that could be attributed to the 1900’s French artist Marcel Duchamp. Following later developments in the found art genre, trash art emerged and subsequently made its own splits. We look at three artists, Purifoy, DeBris, and Minet, to see how they took this idea of using trash, or unwanted materials, as art into the modern era.

Noah Purifoy

“I do not wish to be an artist. I only wish that art enables me to be,” said Noah Purifoy, an Alabama-born artist who primarily worked in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree in California. He constructed sculptures in the 60’s on to the 80’s, one of the most famous of which constituted charred debris left over after the Watts Rebellion. The piece, 66 Signs of Neon, represented an anti-war philosophy as well as postwar obsession with street objects. Purifoy’s collections did not end there, and he continued to build structures out of found objects in order to promote social change. As his creations grew, the space they needed to fill grew as well; he moved into the Mojave desert and built sculptures like the one pictured above. The structures almost re-made their own environment, and have become one of the great historical art wonders of California. Check out this design and more of Purifoy’s work at the Noah Purifoy Foundation.

Noah Purifoy Foundation, 354 S Harvard Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, USA +1 213 382 7516

Marina DeBris

Imagine strolling down the beach, hand in hand with a special someone, watching the sun go down. It’s perfect – until dirty pieces of plastic cover the sand, ruining the view and the walking space. Marina DeBris, artist and creator of Washed Up, noticed the same thing throughout her beach travels around the world, from her home country Australia all the way to Venice, California. For over fourteen years, DeBris has been collecting articles of trash she found this way, at first just to clean up, but in the past four years with an addition of interest in some of the pieces she discovered. Using her art education and background, DeBris creates art using “washed up” trash, hoping to inspire eco friendly thoughts in viewers. She calls the project Washed Up, and she took it in several different directions; one of them being Trashion. Trashion is a combination of trash art and fashion, generally used to display an environmentally friendly cause. DeBris creations are also beautiful, and works like the one shown in the above image and more can be found at her website.

Cynthia Minet

From desert landscapes to beach attire, we now move into the technological era of trash art to discover rainbow animals. At least this is true of artist Cynthia Minet, who creates mixed medium pieces, involving sculptures, drawings, and installations, to display her interests in science as well as ecological issues. The sculptures are made almost entirely of recycled materials, but inside Minet boosts their outward appeal with colorful internal LED lights. Her sculptures have been displayed around the world, and in several places in the USA, including: the Anchorage Museum, Alaska; the Muzeo in Anaheim, California; the Huntington Beach Art Center and at GATE Projects, Glendale. Look for her upcoming installations – the solo exhibition Beasts of Burden and a feature of Pack Dogs at the USC Fisher Museum of Art this September. Check out her website for more details, and for photos of her many glowing art works.


By Summer Powers