Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Shopping at the Dump

Lucky you if you're on James Gouldthorp's Christmas list. He'll be doing some of his gift the San Francisco dump.

Gouldthorpe, the subject of a Fresh Look on Life, is one of the chosen few who've served three-month stints in the Artist In Residence Program at SF Recycling & Disposal ("The Dump").

The program was started 17 years ago to inspire the San Francisco public to waste less and meet a goal of recycling three-fourths of its trash by 2010.

Four artists a year, selected by jury, get hard hats, orange vests, grocery carts and the privilege of sorting through the thousands of tons of garbage that pass through the transfer station. They take the trash to an on-site studio and turn it into art.

One of Gouldthorpe's colleagues sculpted a life-sized Hummer out of styrofoam.

A musician composed "Junkestra," an original symphony in three movements, scored for instruments made out of garbage.

Gouldthorpe found enough perfectly good building materials to construct, among other things, a human-sized bird house.

He's still working on a video piece of a Frenchman reading love letters found at the dump.

And last night in a Salt Lake City hotel room, he completed a series of more than 200 paintings based upon a catalogue of plans for Brady Bunch-era vacation homes, which he, of course, found at the dump.

That piece and another birdhouse are featured in "SF Recycled," an exhibit of artwork from the AIR program, at the Salt Lake Art Center. It runs October 20 through January 26.
"It gets amazing how much waste comes through the place and how much of it is useable," Gouldthorpe said.

He shows off an album of photos from the 1930's, pictures of crews installing telephone poles on Mount Shasta.

And a 1940 high school yearbook, in the back of which was an autographed photo of starlet Jean Harlow.

And then there were the snapshots of John Fitzgerald Kennedy campaigning for President.

And the rare collectible Batman comic book.

All items that someone threw out.

The day he took his then 9-year-old son to the dump, a box of comics and manga were dropped at their feet. The boy, he said, thought the dump was better than the toy store.

Artists who serve residencies don't make much money, but earn a lifetime pass to the dump.

And so, Gouldthorpe says, he will be going back the do his Christmas shopping.

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