By Bill Weiser
I always love hearing from LexJet customers who are pushing the creative boundaries of inkjet photo and art printing.
Recently, I learned about a unique new art exhibit crafted from recycled photo-printing materials. The concept for the Recycling, Relationships, and Rewards exhibit originated with Josh Mitchell, a long-time commercial photographer who is now passionately involved in mixed-media printmaking and fine-art photography in his studio and art gallery in Springfield, MO. The art exhibit made its debut at the Josh Mitchell Fine Art Gallery in April.
The show’s two main pieces Hanging Cartridges and Rhythm and Hues are made from waste materials that Josh had saved during the past two years of using his Epson Stylus Pro 9800 to print images for individual and corporate clients.
Hanging Cartridges is a ceiling-to-floor suspension mobile made from more than 360 plastic inkjet cartridges. Josh came up with the idea then worked with Drury University student architect Justin Petersburg to figure out how to create the piece. Although the idea itself was simple, the process of building the mobile was more complex. That’s because they wanted to design the mobile so that it could be transported and reassembled at another site, perhaps in different configuration.
Each cartridge was dipped in a highly saturated cyan, yellow, magenta or black enamel paint, then strung with monofilament line to a wooden stick. In Josh’s gallery, the cartridges were suspended in multiple rows. A wall of rows starts near the ceiling then tapers off toward the floor, giving the whole thing a suspension-bridge-like look. A ceiling fan causes a gentle movement within the mobile and cross-lighting causes the monofilament lines to glow.
Josh says that visitors to the gallery were wowed when they saw the mobile: “They wanted to walk through it and touch it.” In addition to inspiring thoughts of recycling, he said the mobile triggered questions about inkjet printing. Josh says few people ever stop and think about what colors are used in their inkjet printers or what type of printers are used to create the prints displayed on the walls of his gallery. He thinks the display helped open that discussion and may help build a greater respect for professional-quality printing.
Josh started hanging onto his empty ink cartridges long before cartridge recycling became so easy and popular. He told me, “My printers give me such joy, that the cartridges represented something to me. So I just kept saving them until I had filled garbage bags with the cartridges.”
The idea for turning the cartridges into an art piece occurred to Josh earlier this year, as it was becoming clear that public interest in recycling was on the rise.
Rhythm and Hues is a six-foot, woven wall hanging that Josh Mitchell and artist Macklin Rice pieced together from scraps of inkjet paper and canvas test prints that Josh had collected over the past year. Josh says he had made smaller photo weavings in the past, combining a black-and-white print with color photograph, for example. But he was curious to see if he could create something bigger.
Josh devised the plan to put strips with cooler tones in one quadrant and strips with warmer tones in a different quadrant, and then use a section of neutral-toned strips to separate them. But he wasn’t sure how to make the wall hanging stable and transportable until Macklin suggested using chicken wire.
To create the finished piece, Josh and Macklin wove ¼-in, ½ in., and 1-in. strips through the wire. After they had achieved the waves of colors and degree of dimensionality they had envisioned, Josh sprayed the piece with protective clearcoat to help ensure that the woven wall hanging would retain its color.
Rhthym and Hues is so unique and timely that the piece was immediately accepted for inclusion in a juried exhibition at Webster University in St. Louis. After that exhibition, it will then be installed in the lobby of the YMCA in downtown Springfield.
One of the reasons Josh created the exhibit was to remind people to “Get away from the throw away.” Josh believes that the collaborative nature of creating the 3D exhibit captured the true spirit of sustainability. As Mitchell puts it, “Recycling fosters relationships. You can’t build complex things alone and recycling can be made bigger by all of us pitching in small things.”
He hopes the art pieces will help inspire community residents to collaborate in finding beautiful new ways to use items that otherwise might be discarded.
I am glad that Josh told me about his exhibit. At LexJet, we believe in recycling. Through our Sustainable Solutions, we are empowering our customers in the digital photography and wide-format printing industries with education, products, and programs geared toward reducing our environmental impact.
As Justin Petersburg worked on the mobile, the painted cartridges dripped as they swung, creating wavy lines on the drop cloth. For the exhibit, Mitchell converted the drop cloths into 9 x 12 ft. canvases that he hung on the gallery walls.