Cornelius, NC, September 2016. 

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{Canvas, acrylic paint, crab trap, sushi rolling mat, rope, computer charger, magazine pages, aluminum can.}

This is a project that started with one piece of trash.

Well…lots of them, actually. For the last couple months of my year in Mobile, I lived in a retreat house on the Bay (the sacrifices we make for ministry, right?). Regularly, litter would wash up on our tiny beach. As I picked it up almost daily, sand collecting between my toes as strips of styrofoam collected in my hands, I grew more and more frustrated with the disregard so many people seemed to have for creation. One day a few larger “treasures” washed up — pieces of a metal crab trap, broken my the elements or driftwood or whatever else was waiting in the water.

Those of you who know me won’t be surprised to hear this, my first thought was “Cool piece of trash! I can make something out of that!” I didn’t have a plan really, but litter’s persistence had taken up residence in my thoughts throughout the summer, especially as our Urban Mission Camps spent time with a swell organization called Mobile Baykeeper. So, in a not-so-surprising turn of Allison events, I packed up my new crab trap piece and moved it back to North Carolina with me.

There was this storefront in Mobile that I loved. It was a business owner’s nightmare, I’m sure, but it was a picture of nature emerging victorious. The windows and doors of this place appeared to be intact — worn and dirty, but intact. Somehow though, the vines that crept up the side of the building had found their way indoors. There was no way to know what used to be in there, because all you could see in the windows was greenery. A storefront jungle. It was captivating, to say the least.

As I noticed the wider open spaces in my crab trap muse, my mind drifted back to that storefront. What if vines were creeping up this crab trap too? What if a tree took advantage of that opening and decided to remind us that creation is a lot more determined than we give her credit for? Bamboo has a habit of taking over. Let’s just say it’s…enthusiastic. What better way to represent creation’s determination than the beginning of a bamboo forest? (That, and I had rescued this sushi rolling mat from my parents’ garbage can. Taking stuff apart is fun, and the literal bamboo-to-bamboo conversion made me happy.)

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Using trash to make the vines was another way of asking “what if?.” Another hopeful “what else?.” The lower vine is some dirty old rope reclaimed from the plastic banner I used last time. The top vine is the guts of a broken computer charger cord, accompanied by the string that used to hold together a bamboo sushi mat. Some of you probably recognize the tell-tale color splashes of LaCroix cans on the leaves.

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I suppose this ended up being a love offering of sorts to creation. It took a while. I painted the background almost two months ago, and just finished the vines almost two days ago. I didn’t have the whole picture when I started. But sometimes you just have to let things sit for a minute. What a coincidence, this instance of art imitating life.