The Arts

Found objects display makes beautiful art out of anything

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Third place “Chaps,” a mixed media piece by Ruth Nasca of East Hampton.

Oil, acrylic, watercolors? No, not really.

Bottle caps, pebbles and pollen? Absolutely.

“Found Objects,” this summer’s exhibit at the East End Arts gallery in Riverhead, features random things found both near and far, including driftwood, a turtle shell, a toaster and more.

‘Found Objects’
On view through Aug. 24 at East End Arts gallery, 133 East Main St., Riverhead. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 727-0900 or visit

Gallery director Jane Kirkwood said she knew she’d found the perfect juror when she visited the East Quogue studio of found-object artist Jonathan Pearlman last summer.

“Jonathan entered found-object pieces for our folk art show and not only received best in show, but all three of his submissions got into the exhibit,” Ms. Kirkwood said. “But it wasn’t until after I visited his studio that I realized that this guy’s a genius, he’s just a genius.”

Ms. Kirkwood said she’s especially pleased with younger artists’ submissions for the show, which consists of 50 pieces chosen from among 100 entries.

“I love to see the kids get so excited, recognizing what the objects in the art were,” she said. “It was more accessible to them as far as wondering if they can do art too.”

The show has inspired more than the younger artists, though; it inspired Ms. Kirkwood as well.

“I’ve definitely found myself beachcombing with my eyes since then,” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing to look for the art in the everyday. See what you’re stepping on that you could actually put a frame around.”

She mentioned the resourcefulness of third-place winner Ruth Nasca, who in her piece “Chaps” created “a very simple piece that shows the beauty and the art of a ratty mink collar.”

Mattituck artist Gina Gilmour explored the sometimes flawed concept of rescuing birds from dangerous situations in one of her two pieces in the show, which displays a white plaster pigeon set inside an old open suitcase.

“There’s a hatpin in the back of the suitcase and if you closed that suitcase, the bird would be hurt,” Ms. Gilmour said, “So there’s a fragility there. You really couldn’t evacuate birds and in many other circumstances [evacuation is impossible]. We dealt with that issue when I lived near a nuclear power plant in North Carolina and it’s been an issue here as well.”

Ms. Gilmour’s other work, named “Toast to the Plutocrats #5,” uses a toaster found in her current studio, once part of a hotel. It features likenesses of Art Pope and the Koch brothers — who, Ms. Gilmour said, “pump money into politicians, which undermines our democracy” — placed onto pieces of toast sitting in a classic silver toaster.

“Found objects lend themselves to some humor because it’s an unusual thing to do,” Mr. Pearlman said. “Many people who are working in found objects are not trained artists as far as being studied or schooled. It’s so interesting to see this kind of art because it’s very human.”

His standard for judging pieces was not how interesting the object happened to be but rather how it was used.

“What interests me most as an artist is the transformation of the everyday object into another form,” he said, “so I looked for pieces that transformed themselves using the object in an inventive way. A good example is artist Kimberly Yunker’s piece, a circular design made from yellow flower pollen,” he said.

“Pollen is something that is either discarded or brushed away by most because it’s a nuisance, but here is someone who used it as a pigment,” said Mr. Pearlman.

Riverhead artist Sanford Hanauer, a dedicated found-object artist of many years, won first place for his use of old, rusted bottle caps he found more than a decade ago while scouring the beaches of Barbados with his wife.

“When I see something, I’ll usually pick it up and say, ‘Someday, I’m going to do something with this,’ ” Mr. Hanauer said. “With this piece, I laid the caps down three across and four down after I got home and said to myself, ‘Gee, I’d like to do an aerial view of a 12-pack of different colored bottles.’ ”

Greenport’s Jared Loveless transformed driftwood he found at 67 Steps beach into a flower vase, stuffing the elongated piece of wood with lavender and other flowers picked in local fields.

“The taller piece with the open end looked like it should hold something,” he said.

“You have to be an especially creative-minded person, not necessarily an artist, per se, to put things together and wind up with something really cool,” Ms. Kirkwood said of the show. “It’s like looking at clouds. You see something like a reindeer in driftwood and, before you know it, you’re involved in making something.”

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