Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Amazing Race...

CRAZY:  Here's me and the contestants (back seat), camera man, and celebrity guest from the Amazing Race (European version: PK Express).  

The other day, I was on my way home from Sagada with my latest trash painting (see below!) when I noticed a gaggle of white people in my village.

They were doing their best to wave down cars.  In three months, I haven't seen another white person in my village, so, after dropping off my stuff at home, Tomayo, my Police officer buddy, drove down with me in the police truck to investigate.  We were immediately swarmed and asked for a ride!  Two Belgians and a Parisienne were urgently trying to get to Baguio.  

Two of them spoke no English, only French-- (which fortunately for them I speak!).  I was able to understand that they were part of a race to get to Baguio.   At the moment they were badly last.  The younger teams were ahead of them with their English and good looks (a group of girls had put on Bikini tops to get a ride!).    

 My mind raced to help them out.  Tomayo could only drive so far in the Police car. Who could help us in Sabangan to get to Baguio? I had Tomayo stop at the mayor's house along the highway.  Mayor Donato, keen to help, had us jump in his highpowered SUV in a stunning display of impetuous generosity.  Off we went!  A crazy, full out, auto-race ensued on the most winding and precarious mountain road that you can possibly imagine.  The mayor was an AMAZING driver and we we took hair pin turns at full speed.   By nightfall-- skimming past the others in outrageous driving maneuvers, we were all queasy, but-- in second place!  

In Baguio, I got them to my friend Akira, who let them sleep at the back of her bar (the rules are that the contestants can't pay for anything and everything has to be given to them).  I bought them dinner.  It was the least I could do for two Belgians-- when I was in their country on my amazing journey, know that I was shown sooo much kindness and hospitality.  My new Baguio buddy, Alvin, stayed up all night with me and we found a van to take them the next morning at 7:55 AM.  

And juuuust in time,  the race began again at 8 AM!  

I am proud to say that Alvin and I got them then up to first (in another outrageous pass that will surely make the show)-- even if we faltered a bit at the end.  They caught a ride in a fast car in the town where they were required to transfer, and off they went!  

I wish them the best of luck and am deeply grateful for the profound lesson in following one's intuition.  

The art of following one's intuition never stops folks.  To waver in one's unending gratitude for each twist and turn, to regret the past, to wish something other than it is-- is to falter on the journey.  To give kindness to anyone at any moment is furthermore the best possible thing you can ever do, no matter the intricacy or solidity of one's own plans in that moment.  Do what you can!  That's what we are here for.

Merci Damien, Noela, Daniel, et Christophe! 

'Persistence' -- Our Latest Abstract Trash Canvas!

 Detail from canvas #4: Persistence
So, you all I've been working with Trash. We're making all sorts of great products with the trash weaving in the villages-- from bags to wallets to placemats.   These weavings are collaborations with communities as we collect, wash, cut, and assemble the trash.

Of course, I am first and foremost an artist. Thus, what I am most passionate about are the Trash Paintings that we are making using this same technique of weaving used sachets and wrappers.

I am tremendously excited about this. I've been working with the villages and the women weavers for almost a year now to establish the technique of weaving the trash in a compelling abstract aesthetic and mounting them appropriately. They are getting better and better!

And, now we now have a new painting complete!
Title: Persistence
By: Russell Maier, Karen Kalinga, (created in Sagada and Sabangan villages)
Size: 4'9 x 3'3 (145cm x 100cm)
Medium: woven trash (wrappers)
Price: 1900$ (available)
Framing: to be mounted on a pine stretcher backing (can be easily assembled and dissembled for shipping)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Trash to Treasure-- progress!

We've been real busy here in the village experimenting with home you can transform Trash to useful, beautiful and salable items. The idea is that by transforming trash three things can happen:

1. transform community pollution
2. increase the standard of living of poor folks with freely-made functional items
3. generate a new stream of livelihood income for the unemployed (mothers, farmers, out-of-school youth).

My house has been transformed into more than even a studio-- a laboratory for playing with trash: creating, refining and using. We've had three workshops now and created the coolest stuff. Here's some photos of our progress and play!

A table made from small plastic Yakult bottles (which are 100% non-recyclable!)

This one is simple but revolutionary-- drinking glasses from bottles. Here a mother's group learns to make them for their homes and to sell. The finished glasses are beautifully sanded and far nicer than the cheap glasses that folks normally here buy.

This table was made entirely from gin bottles.

I've also been working with Aunt Rose (who literally works at a city street corner as she sells candy and cigarettes to passer-byes) to transform drinking straws into mats, lamp shades and placemats.

Using wrappers of every sort I've been working with the local ladies to make everything from wallets, to clutch bags, to placemats and more.

My biggest passion however remains art. We are using the technique of weaving wrappers to generate large abstract "paintings" made entirely of trash. Here's some more examples of artistic collaborations using nothing but trash:

My dream is to show BIG trash canvases back in Paris and Berlin. We've got a few new ones in the pipe. I'll post soon!