Bits of wire, half-recognizable kitchen appliances, welded pipes and jumper cables are woven through the pieces in the fantastical exhibit Nonsensical Matter at the Station House Gallery.
Artists Terri Smith and her partner Mark Rupp, with guest Brian McKillican have created an exhibit sourced from salvaged materials.
“I have never been able to overlook interesting garbage,” said Smith, who lives with Rupp on a farm near Quesnel.
“There are organized piles of interesting scraps of metal and wood, industrial parts, random treasures everywhere in and around the barn, and his basement is full of electronic pieces, old tins, broken glass, antique hardware and more.”
“Salvaged materials is really the thing that ties our pieces together as both of us tend to get bored with making the same thing and often move from one medium to another,” she said.
When they saw some of the art McKillican makes from salvaged steel, they invited him to also put a few pieces in the show.
The couple finds much of the salvaged pieces through their job grass seeding cut blocks and ditches. In the process, they often encounter old mining cabins.
“We love the history of this area and love looking at remnants of where people once lived and thinking about what life was like for them there. Most cabins have little dumps, usually over a convenient hill beside the cabin, and looking through old garbage really gives you an idea of what their lives were like.
“Most of them were bachelors, and it shows since most of the garbage will be old tobacco tins, bean cans and men’s boots.”
Other days, they’ll stop at a local dump.
“These are great places to find discarded art supplies,” said Smith. “Mark looks for interesting hardware or interesting shapes of metal. We both have our eye out for copper and brass anything, and some old objects are just treasures in themselves. We also love old televisions. Televisions are great. The tubes are fascinating pieces of art, the glass is incredibly thick and I used some of it to do wire wrapping with in the show, and there is also a lot of copper wire inside. One of my favourite mediums is wire, and there are endless sources for wire in garbage: old alternators, televisions and jumper cables being my favourites.”
Smith said that sometimes one of them will have an idea for an object to create and look for pieces that will work for it, while other times a found object will inspire a new project.
A ray gun that is in the exhibit began from a candle holder found in the Share Shed and a light up toy wand. From there, Smith looked for glass and copper to finish the piece.
“Scavenging in a junk pile one day I found a hollow glass stopper from a broken wine decanter, probably from the 60s and it was perfect,” she said.
“A few days later we had a flat tire on our way to work. While we were at the tire shop waiting, Mark picked up a broken brass valve stem off the ground outside and handed it to me. It was exactly the shape of object I needed.”
The couple also dances burlesque, and on display are a couple of their costumes.
“For burlesque, it has to fit in a way that is easy to put on and take off again without destroying it. I really enjoy the unique challenges of burlesque costuming. I also love the confidence burlesque inspires, I love the humour and satire of it, and the idea that every body is beautiful. It also fits well with our love of art from salvaged objects since pretty much everything we make for burlesque is recycled.”
Often, Smith said, they base their numbers about the story, props and costume and end up choreographing their dances to go with their outfits, as opposed to the other way around.
The show’s title, Nonsensical Matter, came from a dictionary. Under the term “garbage,” nonsensical matter was listed as a definition.
“Do take the title of the show literally. It’s all nonsense. We had a lot of fun. Mark has some more serious pieces in this show intended to make a person think, but I don’t think anything I’ve made is serious,” said Smith.
The show runs at the Station House Gallery until Nov. 25.