The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Rejected clothing, recycled materials get one last chance in the spotlight

Ever wondered what happens to the clothes you've donated that maybe should have been in the garbage bin?

These clothes often find their way to the reject bin after being sorted out by different organizations that collect clothing donations. One Canadian artist uses these reject-bin discards to make large-scale sculpture exhibitions — one of which will be on display at The New Gallery this month.

Jarod Charzewski has taken his art to another level by using recycled material, clothing borrowed from Goodwill and books to form the structure of his sculptures.clothesJarod Charzewski's landscape scene on display in South Carolina.                   Photo Courtesy of: Jennifer Graham

Charzewski's exhibition, titled "Lifespan", will begin Oct. 7 and run through Nov. 12 at the main exhibition space at The New Gallery. The New Gallery is located at 212, 100 7th Ave. S.W..

He currently resides in South Carolina and is an assistant professor at the College of Charleston. Charzewski, 41, grew up in a suburb of Winnipeg — Transcona — where he first became curious of what happens to wasted objects once they have made it to the landfill.

"Transcona is surrounded by golf courses and other 'recreation areas,'" said Charzewski. "These areas used to be landfill sites and have been covered over with earth. I used to wonder as I'd walk across them, what history or artifacts were beneath my feet.

"If I could take some large earth moving equipment and remove a section of this land, would we be able to see layers of discarded materials like clothing and furniture? This is what I imagined as a kid.

"The idea for the piece resurfaced years later but I quickly forgot about it thinking that I would never be able to accumulate enough stuff to make it the way I want," he said. " Thanks to Goodwill Industries, I was wrong."

His artwork reflects the idea of these visible layers by creating a room-sized picture out of sorted, folded and strategically placed clothing.

Tim Westbury, program director at the New Gallery, described Charzewski's work as "similar to the landscape near Drumheller.

"You can see the multiple layers and colours of the sediment of a dry water bed where it took years for layer upon layer of different sediments and eventually became rock-beds. Jarod's work is the smaller scale."

Charzewski said: "It's all in the title of the show. The 'Lifespan' of our belongings. When do we buy or replace something? How long do we own it before we don't have it any more? The work points at our consumer culture and the spending habits of the average shopper.

The clothing speaks volumes in this case because people identify with it," he said. "This is about the sixth time I have done a landscape clothing installation and every time the viewers can't wait to tell me 'I had that shirt.'

The clothing speaks volumes in this case because people identify with it," he said. "This is about the sixth time I have done a landscape clothing installation and every time the viewers can't wait to tell me 'I had that shirt.'

-- Jarod Charzewski
The artist's aim has been to express a point about our society on a larger scale.

"It's ironic," said Charzewski, "that we are in the middle of an economic crisis and we are told that the only way out of it is go out and shop. There are other ways to help. Buy a service. Get your house painted, get a massage or hire an architect. Buying clothes or a new LCD screen is not the only way to help our economy."

Charzewski uses all natural materials — not synthetics like polyester or nylon — because they do not stack as well as natural fibers, therefore the making of his sculptures is rather time consuming.

"I do not fasten the clothing in anyway," said Charzewski. "It needs to be placed in a specific way or there can be a land slide of clothing."

 For no charge, Goodwill loans Charzewski the clothing based on the condition that it all comes back to the organization after the show is over. This means his work is not permanent.

"Donations have been collected for another show but I prefer the Goodwill partner," said Charzewski. "I get more of what I need. Here is the catch-22 part — all the clothing that Goodwill gives me comes from the reject bins in their warehouse. The stuff had its chance to be sold [at Goodwill] but no one bought it. What does not sell goes to landfill sites or is incinerated."

thumb TAnderson profileCharzewski1 copyJarod Charzewski's rockscape sculpture on display in South Carolina.

Photo Courtesy of: Jennifer Graham
Unfortunately, this comes at a high cost to Goodwill organizations and is part of the reason Charzewski likes to see at least one more use of the materials as artwork.I have been making things all my life. I have been calling it art since I was 18 or 19," continued the artist. "And I use a lot of recycled materials in my portfolio. I have used recycled ceiling tiles and reclaimed books. It's kind of like I am giving one last chance for these materials to be used before they are added to some landfill — soon to be recreation area."

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