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To celebrate Earth Day, we sat down with Curina artist Christina Massey to discuss sustainability and how it shows up in her artistic practice!
There are so many forms of sustainable art - land art (which uses materials from nature to create artwork), up-cycling (using discarded materials to create artwork) - How would you define sustainability and how does that show up in your artistic practice?
Sustainability is one of those terms that is a bit subjective, but I think of it in terms of the art world. You know, anything from land based art to repurposed materials and sometimes it shows up in unexpected ways when artists are using even repurposed paints and canvas that seem like traditional art materials - that can also be a way of reusing.
How do you normally find the materials that you work with?
I find my material in lots of places. A lot is sourced from my own home, from my community - my building has about 40 units and I collect stuff from neighbors. But also now even on social media, people know that I use repurposed material. So I literally just had someone who also lived in Brooklyn bring me boxes of materials which is wonderful. And of course, local businesses as well. So when I'm able to find factories that will let me come take their waste material, I love that. And also love crowdsourcing and saying, “Hey, I'm looking for this if you happen to have it or if you see it somewhere, let me know”.
What's the coolest thing you’ve found and then incorporated into your work?
Well, one thing I've been really loving, and surprisingly so, I had a friend bring me two Ikea bags full of these metal mesh sheets, basically meant to block the leaves from getting into gutters, and it was just loads and loads of them. And it's become such a fun material to work with because it creates these beautiful visual lines like ribbon that holds its shape and you can actually manipulate the material quite easily and you can even paint it to change the color. So I’ve been having a lot of fun with these gutter guards lately.
Are there any materials that you haven’t worked with that you're interested in incorporating into your practice in the future?
Yeah! So I actually have an installation that will be coming up at a hospital space. So it's a different audience where people are there because they have to be, you know, it's not a voluntary experience like going into a gallery or a museum. So it's a bit of a different setting. And I love when you have the opportunity to incorporate some of that environment into the work. So I’m looking for splints and braces or crutches, anything that might have been something you used or a physical injury because so much of the work is supposed to be inspiring that kind of inner healing. And so you kind of want to mix that outer and inner with some repurposed knee braces or something.
How has your practice evolved from when you started as an artist to now? Have you always been working with different repurposed materials or is this something that's relatively new?
Well, I originally started off as a painter. That's what I studied in school. They always say hindsight's 20/20 or whatever but even back then I was really repurposing because I was a poor college student - I was taking what other students would throw out into the trash to be able to make my art. So I was repurposing canvases and things even back then. As soon as I moved to New York, my work really started to get much more sculptural and I was breaking down canvas into ways I could weave it together or, you know, even make a dimensional object out of it. And it's evolved over time to incorporate a lot of other materials. So it's really transitioned over the expanse of my work. But I find that often an opportunity will give you an opportunity to explore another avenue - like with this hospital situation, I might not have thought about working with those types of materials had this opportunity not come up. So I think sometimes life brings you those things.
Are there any artists that are doing similar things that you're really excited about or any artist with sustainable practices that you’d like to highlight?
Oh, I have so many artists that I love! I'll say one of my biggest influences is probably Judy Pfaff. She's got a huge space upstate and is always using all kinds of crazy materials from paper lanterns to just a million and a half found objects into these incredible pieces. That one here local in Brooklyn that I love is Lina Puerta. We have a very similar aesthetic but a different approach, of course, an entrepreneur broker who does all the works with the repurposed tires. She's amazing.