Many People’s Garbage Is One Artist’s Chair.

It was surprisingly comfortable for a piece of trash, or rather many pieces of trash. The fact that I was sitting on what was once non biodegradable garbage was enough to evoke a most sincere WOW.

The location was the Upper Room Art Gallery in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The chair was the result of the talents of an innovative and environmentally conscious artist by the name of Ann Wizer. And the experience was both enlightening and enjoyable.

Ann is an American artist living in Asia. Her husband works for the World Bank, giving her opportunities to gather ideas and materials from a variety of nations and sources.

While living in Japan, Ann created sculptures from natural waste she found on the forest floor.

Sculpture by Ann Wizer made from forest products

Sculpture by Ann Wizer made from forest products

One sculpture gave me the impression of a grotesque bird with a large nose. The surface was imbedded with pine needles – prickly, but not sharp – which added to its earthy appeal. The artist used pigments that represented moonlight on the forest floor: soft green, blue and gray. What Mother Nature discards, Ann fashions into eye and finger pleasing art forms.

Close up of the top of a sculpture by Ann Wizer

Close up of the top of a sculpture by Ann Wizer

And the chair? Well, it had a high back and no arms, covered in clear plastic and generous in sitting space. When I sat down, the chair molded itself to both back and butt to make a supportive sit.

Ann uses the experience of a master furniture maker to create functionality as well as art. This means the chair was stuffed with purpose, and not random abandon.

The Chair was filled with discarded plastic that Ann gleaned with the help of garbage dump-dwellers. You can see parts of brand names along with the multi-colors and silver beneath the cover.

As early as the 1980’s, Ann was designing and constructing bags for books, and later, computers, from non biodegradable discarded plastics Her goal was to replicate universal weaves with tribal patterns to enable even the poorest individuals to preserve pieces of their culture.

Bags made from discarded plastic products

Bags made from discarded plastic products

Ann’s education in art took her from institutions in the United States to Greece and Japan. She has taught in Singapore, Jakarta, Tokyo, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, among others. Ann serves on the Board of Directors of the Dharma Nature Time International Foundation, and she is the founder of the XSProject Foundation. When it comes to raising environmental awareness through art, Ann Wizer truly walks the talk.

The Upper Room Art Gallery is a collective of nine artists who, although represented by traditional galleries, have created this space where they feel free to express themselves in less traditional ways. Also, the artists have a venue where they feel comfortable in promoting and discussing the complex and difficult subjects that are of great importance to them: global poverty, social justice and environmental issues.

Although we were with a group of fellow bloggers, I was shown, and encouraged to touch the pieces on display. This was welcome and refreshing. Whereas in Europe and the United Kingdom museum and gallery staff have encouraged me to touch art and artifacts, here, in the United States, I usually get the cold shoulder. I was deeply touched by, and appreciative of, the way in which my needs were met with thoughtfulness and generosity.

The gallery deserves far more time and space than I can give it in this post, so I will save the story of the nine artists, and the unique way in which they use their talents to support worthy causes in which they genuinely believe for another time. Ann Wizer’s chair was an unusual WOW among the many to be found in the Upper Room Gallery.

To learn more about Ann Wizer and the Upper Room Art Gallery, visit their website.

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