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While most people will look at metal scraps or broken glass and just see a pile of junk, discarded items can become so much more than that for the artists in the Recycled Art Exhibition. Glass bottles and vases can do double duty as flower bouquets. Textile scraps and magazine clippings can be utilized in paintings to add unique textures and patterns. Even old dolls can be utilized to look like a person is trapped inside a mirror. The sky really is the limit here; the only requirement is that each entry be made of at least 80 percent recycled or repurposed materials. 

The 16th annual Recycled Art Exhibit opened April 7 at the Artists’ Coalition of Flagstaff inside the Flagstaff Mall. It will remain open through April 30, and visitors can view the art during business hours, Monday-Saturday from noon-7 p.m. and Sundays from noon-6 p.m. Admission is free. More information can be found at www.flagstaff-arts.org.

Artists' Coalition Executive Director Mike Frankel estimated around 300 people attended the opening to view nearly 100 pieces submitted by 36 artists.

Entries in this year’s show varied greatly in material used and purpose. Some were made for fun as with Tim Thomason’s "Cabinet of Curiosities," which featured representations of items such as “What the Cat Dragged In” and “Midnight Oil” and won the exhibit's Most Creative prize, while others were made for practicality like Jerry Gamble’s "Rock and Roll," a bench made from 1930 car parts and redwood lumber which won the Most Useful prize.

“All you need is an idea and a little bit of time,” Frankel said. “You don’t need to be an ‘artist,’ and that’s what's nice about it.”

Thomason, a psychology professor at NAU, said he doesn’t consider himself an artist but has enjoyed participating in the show in recent years.

“In the 1600s and 1700s, people put together these cabinets or whole rooms where they collected this curious stuff from other cultures, so I thought, why not make a new one from scratch,” he explained of the inspiration behind his "Cabinet of Curiosities."

“I came up with a long list of probably 100 different items, kept the best ones and tried to figure out how I could put them in a physical form.”

The final result was 78 glass bottles attached to a repurposed frame and filled with different objects. Among them, the bottle of “Tears of a Clown” is filled with water, “Calcified Ache of Lost Love” is a chunk of purple amethyst and “Fun-Size Turd” is a chocolate candy.

Fuller Barnes won the exhibit's Best of Show for his metalwork piece titled "Damn Piranha," and he also took the Most Humorous prize for "Footloose," a metal shark made from salvaged car parts with a mannequin leg jutting from its mouth.

“The biggest reward for me is if somebody gets a chuckle out of my work,” he said.

Artists from Hozhoni Foundation won the Best Use of Materials prize for their piece titled "Mermaid," which incorporated yarn, chicken wire, masking tape and more to create a 3D depiction of the mythical sea creature.

Frankel said the Hozhoni artists jumped for joy upon receiving their award. “It was one of the most heartwarming things I’ve experienced in my time on the Coalition,” he said.

Awards presented in the exhibit's 10 prize categories were made by Thomason out of various glass pieces he found at thrift stores and glued together.

Frankel said the Recycled Art Exhibition inspires new participants each year and has drawn visitors from as far as Phoenix. Ellen Ryan, a City of Flagstaff employee in the conservation department, created the event 16 years ago.

“It has grown so big from there,” he said. “People come up to me literally a day after the one year closes with ideas for the next year.”

“In a way, it’s just my little contribution to recycling,” Barnes said. “It’s nice that there’s always new life for old stuff.”

Other award winners this year included Colorful Movements by John Rogers, Elegance; Twilight Angel by Jack McClung, Simplicity; Snow Day Kitchen by Brad DeVries, Snowplay Materials; and Foxtrot by Whitney Westra, Student Best of Show.

The People’s Choice Award will be contingent on visitor ballots, so don’t forget to stop by and vote for your favorite piece before the exhibit closes April 30. The people's choice winner will be announced May 1.

The reporter can be reached at mchase@azdailysun.com or 556-2262.

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