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  • Writer's pictureHamed Fardsoltany

Metal Sculpture and Sustainable Artistry: An Exploration of Upcycling and Repurposing

Artists across the world have always been pioneers in addressing global issues in unique ways, using their creations to open dialogues and provoke thought. As an example, the artist Olafur Eliasson uses art as a form of activism by shedding light on issues like the impact of climate change. His work 'Ice Watch' involved bringing 12 large ice blocks from Greenland to public spaces in cities around the world to raise awareness about the melting of polar ice caps.


'Ice Watch' by Olafur Eliasson


At Metalico Arte, we're proud to showcase a stunning collection of metal sculptures that perfectly exemplify this trend towards responsible creativity. It's not just about creating art, but how and from what these creations spring forth that makes the process somewhat 'revolutionary'. The focus here is on two such innovative methods – 'upcycling' and 'repurposing'.


Upcycling and repurposing may seem synonymous at first glance, both involving a transition from waste to wonder. However, the nuanced difference between these practices lies in their end goals. 'Repurposing' refers to giving a new purpose or use to discarded or natural objects. In contrast, 'upcycling' is a process that enhances the value of these discarded objects, transforming them into something of greater value. By choosing one method over the other, artists embark on different creative journeys, albeit with the common intent of giving a second life to discarded objects.


Consider Harriete Estel Berman, an artist celebrated for her use of post-consumer, recycled materials. She has repurposed "tin" cans into sculptures, giving these discarded objects a new purpose and helping them escape their destined route to the landfill. Her work shines a light on our material culture, and challenges societal norms through her pieces, embodying the essence of repurposing.


'Checking the Cost of Gun Violence' by Harriete Estel Berman (2016)

Repurposed vintage check-writing machine, gun, 89 shells from bullets, recycled tin, paint, silver, screws. The check-writing machine sits in a 'pool of blood' made from a sheet of red tin cans. Written on the front of the check-writing machine in lettering from recycled tin cans:

'Each day in America there are 31 murders, 55 suicides, 2 accidental deaths, 1 death by police action. If not killed, 219 injured by guns each day. 89 deaths by guns each day. 32, 514 people are killed by guns each year. $627 million costs in a year". Photo credit: Philip Cohen

On the other hand, upcycling enhances the intrinsic value of discarded objects, as can be seen in the work of artist Andrew Hayes. In 'Crossing' Hayes takes his sensory appreciation for the book - full of fact and story - as a material and employs the use of metal to create a new form, and hopefully a new story”. Through the process of upcycling objects with histories, they are reshaped and rendered unrecognizable. This metamorphosis often leads to a significant rise in the value of the transformed object, both in terms of aesthetic and monetary worth.


'Crossing' by Andrew Hayes

Repurposed books married with steel to create free standing and wall sculptures


One could argue that repurposing and upcycling are compelling responses to the accelerating issue of global waste and our planet's finite resources. Indeed, artists hold a mirror to society, urging us to reconsider our throwaway culture. The role of artists extends beyond the creation of visually captivating works; they also serve as catalysts for social change.


Rodney McMillian calls discarded objects 'post-consumer,' because after they’ve served their use, they enter another system, where artists give them new lives.

'Chair' by Rodney McMillian

Photo: Adam Reich


Through repurposing and upcycling, artists like those showcased in our collection at Metalico Arte don't merely see a discarded piece of metal - they visualize a canvas full of potential. It is our aim to inspire our viewers to perceive the beauty in discarded objects and the potential for their transformation. Additionally that it encourages everyone to take responsibility for their waste and consider how they can contribute to a more sustainable future.

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