Junk mail becomes art through upcycling

Who says recycling has to be boring?

Sandi Schimmel Gold regularly bicycles, composts, and recycles.

“I’m one of those people, an old hippie, that’s still doing all of those green things,” she said. Someone whose weekly recyclables outweigh their trash output. “I’ve always been one of those rabid recyclers.”

A longtime painter, Gold’s artistic proclivities changed about 14 years ago when she was gifted a paper guillotine. Wanting to do a mosaic without using glass or tile, Gold diced up pieces of old greeting cards and pasted them onto one of her paintings. “I started gluing paper onto everything: lamp shades, light fixtures in the hallway, picture frames,” she said.

“This is it,” she told herself. “This is my thing, and I haven’t looked back.”

Gold creates her work by first drawing and painting every piece. “Then I find all the paper and I cut it up and I glue it onto the painting,” she said. “I have a room full of paper that’s going to get reused or recycled, so nothing is going into the landfill–because that bugs me.”

Recently, a couple recently commissioned Gold to do a 16” x 20” mosaic portrait resembling one of their 1964 wedding photos. Gold estimates it took 80 – 120 hours to complete the painting. “It’s really tedious,” she said. “I can’t do more [commissions] than a few a month because they’re too time consuming.”

Chasen Galleries in Carytown has Gold’s work on continuous display. Next month, Gold will occupy space at The Ward Center for Contemporary Art, where she’ll also teach classes.

Gold’s asking that people donate their junk mail and unneeded “season’s greetings” cards to her,1 which she’ll upcycle into one of her pieces, or recycle.

Gold knows her work can’t be classified, and she’s glad about it. “I don’t want to be categorized. I’m kind of like an outsider. I’m not part of an academic art world,” she said. “I’m just doing my own thing in my own way.”

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Old photo painting

Old photo painting 2

Old photo painting 3

Old photo painting 4

junk mail painting

Junk mail art 2

junk mail art painting 4

junk mail painting 5

  1. You can leave donations for her at Chasen Galleries, Frame Nation, or The Ward Center for Contemporary Art
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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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