Art explores repurposed material

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Art explores repurposed material

Laura Testino

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One man’s trash may be another man’s treasure, but after being altered and pieced together, these hidden gems can become gallery-worthy art.

Elements in Transition, the current exhibit in The T.E.M.P. Gallery at the Kentuck Art Center in Northport, features artwork in both traditional and non-traditional media by Barry Graham and Laura Brookhart, two artists currently based in Birmingham.

When choosing a name for the collection, the artists focused on their use of repurposed items.

“It seemed to me what we were doing was taking old vintage pieces and things that you might usually throw away, or not think of as being very creative or useful anymore, and repurposing them and more or less taking elements and transitioning them into something else,” Graham said.

(See also “Kentuck opens T.E.M.P. gallery with celebratory art exhibit night“)

Graham has typically worked with watercolor as a preferred medium but was inspired to incorporate the use of other media after inheriting items from his father, who was a “collector of things.”

“I needed some way to get away from my painting, to have a different focal point,” Graham said. “I wanted to do something that involved my hands and making some noise, and then I got to thinking about all of these little pieces that I had. I’ve always been into repurposing and recycling and that sort of thing.”

Brookhart wanted to see her own artwork make a similar change to include new media, particularly items she had found over the years, as well as some of the stamps from the thirty albums she inherited from her father’s collection. After meeting each other through an interview, Brookhart and Graham decided to collaborate in creating art with a new dimension.

“Whenever I see anything that has interest to me, I accumulate it,” Brookhart said. “In order to justify all of the things that I had accumulated over the years, I felt the need to be incorporating them into my art.”

Brookhart has traditionally worked with photography as an art medium, but “never cared about going out and taking a picture that looks like a picture.” Many of her pieces include photographs that have been layered and altered. One of her photographs inspired Seasons in Transition, a piece in the gallery that Brookhart and Graham collaborated to create. It features a three-dimensional tree with aluminum pieces as leaves.

Graham said he believes this piece captures the theme they tried to relay with all of the art in the show, by “taking a material and turning it into something else useable.”

(See also “Students collaborate with renowned artist for Sonic Frontiers“)

The two artists don’t refine their art to the parameters of the canvas, both in creating art with three-dimensional media, as well as extending the entire conception of some of the pieces beyond the edges of its frame. After coming across a frame store that was going out of business, pieces of different frames were used to showcase the artwork in a nontraditional way, a concept seen in Seasons in Transition.

“[I made] the frame part of the painting piece as well, instead of just being a way to display it. And I like doing that because it makes you think outside the frame. You incorporate that in it as well, and you give it a theme or develop it in a way that does have a theme,” Graham said.

Brookhart said approaching art without any preconceived ideas has been a great tool for creating her new pieces.

“I never start with anything in mind. I just simply pick and choose, usually images that appeal to me on some level, and I let it happen as it goes,” she said.

Both artists enjoyed answering questions about the themes in their artwork on March 6 at Art Night, an event Kentuck sponsors the first Thursday of every month. Holly Roberts, the program manager at Kentuck Art Center, believes this event delineates the gallery’s mission to “perpetuate the arts, engage the community and empower the artist.”

“I think with any exhibit you’re engaging the community because it’s here,” Roberts said. “But art night is the big part of that engaging the community. And then also for the artist I think it’s a great experience for them to be at a gallery and see people reacting to their artwork, and then be able to answer questions or just talk. I think as an artist it gives you a greater sense of meaning to why you’re working, because people are either enjoying it or responding, and maybe purchasing a piece.”

Elements in Transition will remain on display in The T.E.M.P. Gallery at Kentuck Art Center until March 27.

(See also “Student analyzes painting’s place in art through exhibit“)