Artist gives recycled materials new life

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016
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When it comes to art supplies for Clare Graham, one man's trash is his treasure.

Graham is an artist who uses recycled materials to create sculptures and furniture. He collects hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of the same object and assembles them together at Mor York Gallery in Highland Park, Los Angeles.

Graham has used bottle caps, buttons, pop tops and scrabble tiles to create his works of art. He finds most of his objects at flea markets, swap meets, garage sales and thrift stores.

"Unlike a regular art supply store, you can't ever rely on encountering the same material over and over again," Graham told ABC.

Some materials, like pop tops, can be easy to collect. Graham was able to source pop tops at recycling centers. He estimates that he has used 15.5 million pop tops for his works of art.

Other materials, like rosaries, are not as easy to find. Graham collected about 3,200 rosaries over the course of 18 years before creating an installation piece.

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Graham believes that each recycled item has a history to it, and through his art, he aims to honor the patina of the recycled objects he uses.

"It gives you a connection to things," he said. "It embeds you into the object itself as you re-manipulate it, redesign it for your use."

One benefit Graham sees to using recycled materials over traditional art supplies is that they are less expensive. Another benefit is environmental conservation. Through his work Graham hopes to encourage the use of recycled materials as art supplies.

"When you give [recycled materials] the signifier of being arranged in a certain way as art, people sort of get it and they realize that it all doesn't have to go into a trash can," said Graham. "It can become something else and have further use."