Is it alright to put an oil painting in the trash..and does this idea have "good energy"?
February 5, 2010 1:42 PM   Subscribe

I want to do something similar to this London artist's idea...but when I think about it I quickly get mired in the logistics. Can you help me decide if I could do something like this that would be environmentally correct plus not cost me money personally? "Art bin"

I am a working artist. My medium in oil. Over the years I have amassed a lot of horrible work that drags me down emotionally...just looking at it. I know that there are many artists who feel the same..saving the dreck is not uplifting. I have painted over some of my efforts, and that, of course, is an effective way to recycle. However, this man's idea is excellent because of the symbolism of getting rid of the past. I don't know though--if I were to do something similar here (in Portland, OR) on this type of scale (inviting other artists to join in) if the environmental people wouldn't jump on me immediately. I don't know how oil paint breaks down in landfills and if it is wrong to throw oil paintings into the trash.
I've tried googling the problem to no avail --can you point me in a direction about oil painting disposal..or tell me if there is anything wrong with how he has handled it? I feel that it would be a popular turnout and maybe I could charge a modest fee so that I wouldn't have to take on the whole cost of a dumpster.

Does this seem viable to you? Does it seem like a stupid idea or a good one? Portland is full of artists. Zillions of them. There has to be miles of art that they would like to purge. Please let me know your thoughts...and before you advise me to give canvases to schools for recycling, I have to tell you that usually most artists don't want their bad work out in the world (unsigned or signed) in any way...that's why this guy's solution seems so elegant (aside from the possible enviromental ramifications).
posted by naplesyellow to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why not have a "failure swap meet" and see how other artists can rework the canvases into something meaningful? You could hold an exhibition of before-and-after photos to make a statement about recycling and creating meaning...Everybody wins.

I like to find crappy, lame canvases in dumpsters and rework them until I've got something I'm happy with. Sometimes I salvage elements of the original; other times I'm just grateful for the free canvas!

If you do decide to ditch them, be sure to tell the Portland freegan community where your dumpster is. I know plenty of starving artists who'd be perfectly happy to strip it bare.
posted by aquafortis at 2:47 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think what Landry is doing is interesting-- it would be cool to see what all those artists consider failures-- but it's not clear to me that it's actually a waste disposal effort. It's more like a show with a performance aspect, and it's not a mass of pieces by each person.

A bunch of painters throwing away a lot of canvases could be a logistical problem; I'd say just consult the local authorities. Certainly painting over them would be more environmentally sound but I imagine that is not always feasible. If you don't want them going out into the world, you will have to physically dispose of them before you die in any case.
posted by BibiRose at 5:13 PM on February 5, 2010

I love this idea! It helps that the dumpster is clear, now that's funding. If you want to start doing your own research into the toxicity of oil painting you could start with my favourite lady: Monona Rossol who might be able to point you in the right direction regarding the disposal safety of oil paintings and other materials. Go for it!
posted by gillianr at 6:04 PM on February 5, 2010

Best answer: OH MY GOD THIS IS GREAT. Do you have any contacts at small local galleries who might be willing to put on a Failure Night? Maybe they could help foot the bill for disposal. I love the idea of a Failure Swap Meet, too.

How about collecting everything and then donating it to a thrift store?

Oil paints are considered hazardous household waste and would need to be taken to a hazardous waste disposal center near you. On the up side, in Portland "There is no charge to bring your toxic trash to Metro’s permanent facilities or community events."
posted by ErikaB at 8:36 PM on February 5, 2010

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