The Art of Transformation

June 23, 2010
Artpace San Antonio Grants $5000 to Three Artists
We couldn't be more excited to announce that Artpace is giving $5000 in travel grants to three San Antonio-based artists. After an extensive selection process, Ruth Buentello, Naomi Wanjiku, and Mark Hogensen rose to the top of the 2010 pool of Artpace Travel Grant applicants. Wanjiku will travel back to her native Kenya to immerse herself in the Jua Kali experience, an informal but highly developed recycling program that re-purposes recyclables as unique pieces of art.

The Art of Transformation
This concept of transformation is known as “Jua Kali,” a Swahili expression from Kenya that literally means “Under the Hot Sun”. This refers to the hundreds of talented artisans and artists involved in this recycled art movement, working under the hot African sun in makeshift shelters. Figuratively it has a wide range of meanings all revolving around the concept of creating from that which has been discarded. It is the informal, but highly developed, recycling movement in Kenya. Nothing goes to waste: bottle caps, cans, scraps of fabric and metal, practically everything in the trash bin is used and reused to create art that is both functional and beautiful.

In my current art in San Antonio, I transform recycled cans into contemporary art. The new, the old and the not so old cans are stitched into each other with various gauges of steel wire. These materials and techniques enhance depth and texture, while creating an interplay of visual harmony and movement. The bringing together of these materials creates a rebirth of the discarded cans. My work celebrates the transformation of discarded materials; the coming together of the old and new; and is a metaphor for the connection between multiple generations.

The Process
The initial process involves gathering recycled cans from friends and neighbours.

I let nature take over my work by letting the iron rust into the fabric of the can, using the color as not just a decoration but a meaningful contextual component.The natural lines on the surfaces of the cans create continuous patterns and texture.
Texas went through a severe summer in 2009 and the fall and winter had some of the most unpredictable temperatures. The grass in my back yard turned gray, most of my plants died, but my cans thrived through the changing weather. After six weeks in the back yard, they started to gradually transform into beautiful color palette that includes muted earth tones; dusty beige, rusts, browns, oranges and ochers.The focus is no longer on the cans, but on texture, color and pattern, that have integrated naturally on their surfaces.

When the experiments with color is complete, I coat the cans with lacquer, a high lustre coating that provides a durable finish on the cans
When the process of gathering and processing the material is complete, the designing process begins. I  cut, fold, and bend the recycled aluminum cans into semi flat swatches.

I join these cans together with crocheted stainless steel wire, creating swatches.These will be stitched together with galvanised wire to form a panorama of complex patterns and textures. 
My intention is to use art as inspiration for individuals to recycle, reuse, and conserve resources, while challenging the imagination, and creating the beautiful.


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