“You can basically find anything you want at the dump,” says artist David King. He would know. He spent 20 hours a week sifting through junk at the San Francisco city dump as part of a four-month artist residency. “A lot of the stuff is still usable, and some of it is even new and still in its wrapper,” he adds.
An important part of King’s residency was to share the recycling experience with children from local public schools. The classes that came through his studio definitely shared his enthusiasm for making art out of garbage, making their visits “the highlight of the residency,” he says. “It’s great to get kids excited about using trash to make fun stuff.”
The fun stuff that King made includes numerous spherical sculptures that mime scientific forms — cells and viruses, satellites and planetary bodies — but that also evoke the playful sensibility of their raw material: sports balls.
Upon discovering numerous discarded basketballs, baseballs, tennis balls, golf balls, and more, King decided to use them as structural elements. Then he attached smaller found items to the balls, such as hair curlers, screws, game pieces, and suction cups.
King had previously explored circular forms through collage, and these ideas only grew with his new finds. “I came to the residency with some preconceived ideas about what I would do there, and what I would find in the waste stream,” he says, “but I quickly had to give all that up and just respond to what I found there.”
For their part, the schoolchildren had plenty of ideas. “Many kids would get so excited they could hardly finish their sentences when they wanted to tell me their suggestion for some of the materials I had collected,” King explains. “Two fifth-graders that came through, already looking like art school students, told me that making art out of trash was their dream job. When I told them I also received a $1,000-a-month stipend, they went through the roof.”
Uniting artists and kids to bring a creative edge to recycling? As the fifth-graders said, “Awesome! Cool!”
King of the Dump: davidkingcollage.com/dump1.html