Visual art has been defined as a vehicle for expression or com- munication of emotions and ideas. Leo Tolstoy identified
art as a use of indirect means to communicate from one person to another.
Contemporary artist HA Schult is an
internationally renowned German artist
who takes unwanted trash and transforms it into figures, creating large-scale art installations—a statement on
society’s relentless consumption.
“We live in the trash time: we
produce trash and we become trash.
Therefore . . . ‘Trash People’ are images
of ourselves,” explains the artist. His
installation of 1000 figures—made
from crushed cans, electronic waste,
and other rubbish—has stood in public
spaces in Rome, Barcelona, Moscow,
New York, Paris, and along the Great
Wall of China.
How can high-school students communicate concern about ecological and
In this project, students were challenged to give life to inanimate objects;
use trash and recyclables as their subject; and communicate about the issues
of waste disposal, recycling, endangered species, erosion, and pollution.
The assignment for students was to
transform and morph trash, especially
metallic items, into an animal. The
animals would have an industrial,
robotic look, suggesting a conflict
between nature and industrialism.
In contrast to the metallic subject, a
small scene of the animal’s natural
habitat would be
juxtaposed into the
Students visualized and sketched
ideas. Some went
a step further
prototypes from a
collection of metallic trash and recy-clable items. They then created their
sketches from their prototypes.
The morphed animals were created
from a variety of discarded objects
including silverware, hardware, and
keys. The sketches were enlarged to
18 x 24" ( 46 x 61 cm) black paper and
developed with colored pencils. Stu-
dents spent considerable time blending
values to create metallic sheen and
three-dimensional form, as well as
carefully morphing objects together to
represent their selected animal.
Juxtaposing with Nature
Students selected and created a small
window of scenery that was typical of
their animal’s habitats. This window
into their ani-
mal’s habitat was
positioned to help
create balance and
a unified composi-
tion. The small
addition of the ani-
mal’s habitat was
completed with col-
ored pencil or soft
pastel. The remain-
space was colored
with black conté. The completed pieces
were protected with acrylic spray.
Students were challenged
to give life to inanimate
objects; use trash and
recyclables as their
subject; and communicate
about the issues of
waste disposal, recycling,
erosion, and pollution.
Students enjoyed creating their metallic animals and many of these pieces
received awards in regional art competitions as well as national art exhibitions. Savannah Miller’s piece, Time
Flies, won the 2011 Third District
Congressional Art Competition in Louisville, Kentucky. The competition is
hosted by members of the United States
House of Representatives as a means of
recognizing and encouraging the artistic talents of high-school students from
across the nation. Savannah’s piece will
be displayed for a full year in the Capitol’s “Artistic Discovery” corridor. She
also will receive round-trip airfare to
visit the exhibit.
Debra Lott is visual art department chair
at Assumption High School in Louisville,
Students initiate, define, and solve
challenging visual arts problems independently using intellectual skills such
as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.