Keri Rosebraugh makes the gorgeously ferocious pieces you see above and below. The mixed-media artist makes charcoal drawings on found pieces of wood/paper, and all the color added comes from pieces of garbage she finds near her home. She had a recent exhibition at the Co-op 28 gallery in Los Angeles.
I was interested to know how she finds her trash, how she came to incorporate it into her work in such a creative way, and how upcycling trash affects her creative process, so I asked her a series of questions.
MNN: How do you decide what kinds of trash to use in your work? Do you pick it all up and then choose from a pile, or go only for pieces that catch your eye?
Keri Rosebraugh: I find a lot of trash on the ground when I walk my dog everyday on the bike path and alley near my painting studio. I usually look for small, three dimensional objects with bright colors, such as bottle caps, broken bicycle reflectors, gum wrappers, Styrofoam cups, etc. They are everywhere! Afterwards, I sort them out by color, and have containers with all gold, all blue, all black, etc. When I add them into my pieces, it's really just like painting, only mixing colored objects together rather than paint pigment.
Why do you use discarded materials?
I began using discarded materials when I was commissioned to create a mural this past summer entirely out of trash, with the Eco-Logical Gallery of Los Angeles. It was to advertise a documentary that came out on cleaning up the world's beaches. Having to collect, sort and use all that garbage made me realize how much trash is thrown out onto our streets every day and/or headed to nearby landfills :(
After the project ended, I couldn't walk down the street without wanting to pick up random trash I passed by. It is sort of addicting in a weird way. In fact, friends of mine got inspired by it, and started saving their trash for me on a regular basis. There is a great organization called SustainLA.com that consults businesses on how to reduce their waste intake, and they donated a lot of discarded materials for me each week.
How do you think these materials change (or don't change) your final work?
These materials change my art pieces quite a bit from their original form. Physically, they add a third dimension, plus color to my 2-D black-and-white drawings — that is obvious. But if the viewer stops for a moment and starts to really look closely at the trash, they can identify a lot of the pieces individually, and then step back and see the garbage being used in an entirely different way then we usually view trash — and that, hopefully, can open up people to think of other ways to reuse and recycle this stuff, because it's stuck here with us for along time :)
Are you inspired by what's thrown away?
I'm disturbed by the amount and type of materials we throw away. That being said, I am very inspired by so many people that are creating new things with various types of garbage such as jewelry, purses, clothing — even entire dwellings made of entirely recycled elements.
Any new projects using garbage in different ways coming up?
My current exhibition shows mosaic-ed trash incorporated into fabricated gargoyle drawings glued onto two dimensional pieces of found wood. I think my next series will stick closely to that same subject matter, but venture into entire three dimensional sculptures of gargoyles, all created out of many pieces of garbage put together. The gargoyles represent such an old way of thought, so I like the reused trash juxtaposed against it — kind of mocking archaic, old school beliefs with new, creative visions. ... also, on a personal level, it's a fun challenge to render shapes, form shadows, and really actually draw and paint with a medium that normally wouldn't be used in this way.
Keri received her BFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Disney, Mattel, Dreamworks, Grist Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Toronto Star, and Mother Earth News. She was president of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles for two years, co-founded the nonprofit Responsible Education and Media and served on the board of directors for the Eco-logical Art Gallery of Los Angeles. Recent exhibitions include La Luz De Jesus Gallery, and The Studio for Southern California History. This is her first solo exhibition in California.
Also on MNN: 6 examples of pricey, trash-based art