Local art gallery reuses, recycles, Re-Returns

Leslie Cusano

Environmental art show features everyday fashions, accessories in exhibit running through Saturday

Jeff Ingram of the Standing Rock Cultural Arts Center sits in a hammock made of plastic bags and rope by artist Elaine Hullihen at the opening of Re-Return on Feb. 9.


Credit: Ron Soltys

What does one wear with a purse made of cut-up credit cards?

How about a dress made entirely of plastic grocery bags?

Cathy Kasdan’s dress — and Loren Marshall-Flynn’s credit card bag — are just a few of the recycled art pieces in the Re-Return environmental art show at the School of Art Downtown Gallery.

“You think about how many bags it took to make the dress — those could have been in the trash,” Kasdan said.

In addition to her dress, Kasdan also had a matching hat and purse made entirely of grocery bags that were actually used while grocery shopping.

“I did it in a ’50s style because that’s when plastic bags were starting to be produced on a roll,” Kasdan said. “It was a time when we were enthusiastic about America.”

This is the second year the show has run. It is curated by Janice Lessman-Moss, professor and director of the Crafts and Textiles Department, and Director of Galleries Anderson Turner. It included the work of faculty, students, regional artists and adjunct faculty, Turner said.

“It’s a wonderful idea,” Lessman-Moss said. “It’s a tradition that should be continued.”

She said the show helps artists expand their parameters.

“There’s something very intriguing about using materials found at home,” she said. “It allows you to try using something that is already available.”

She also said the bigger gallery space — nearly three times the space of the old gallery on Water Street — allowed them to include more work.

Among the works on display were a drawing from the Kent State University Art Collection, a letter from the artist about Robert Smithson’s “Partially Buried Woodshed” and a large print of Steven Siegel’s “Tilt,” the newspaper and sod sculpture in front of the Art Building.

Kerry Bresnahan, senior art education major, wove a purse out of plastic bags that is also on display at the show.

“You’re taking something that would end up in landfills and turning it into something aesthetically pleasing,” she said. “After seeing this show, someone would have a hard time arguing recycling isn’t an important part of society.”

Bresnahan also said that she likes the low cost of materials.

“I love using recycled materials. They’re cheap and easy to come by,” she said. “You kind of become a pack rat — like most artists.”

Turner said having a show like this is important not just within the scope of Kent State, but worldwide as well.

“It’s about having the conversation on a much more global scale,” Turner said. “It expands people’s ideas of what art can be.”

The show runs through Feb. 23.

Contact College of the Arts reporter Leslie Cusano at [email protected].