My main inspirations for snatching up things I find in the trash are my parents. My dad, Mort might own several tuxedos and live in Houston's weirdest mansion, but many of his favorite art pieces have been literally pulled out of dumpsters. I am using the term "art piece" very generously here, but when you take a child-sized, filthy Barbie doll with a shaved head from the garbage and then accessorize her with a pith helmet and purse with a baby alligator sewn upon it, you have made a piece of art. Oh, he also found a Barbie a "husband" in the trash in the form of a particle board cutout of a CGI-ed teenager wearing sunglasses.
My mother used to flip houses and would often have to go to the dump. When she would go to the dump, she would often bring stuff back with her. Once she brought back a ceramic sink and installed it into one of her houses, so if you bought a formerly foreclosed house in Sugarland, Texas in the late 1990s, it might have a dump sink in it. She once brought me back a lime green 1970s shag carpet. Then she realized what she had just done and promptly took it back to the dump. I love my mom for that. She can try to find potential in a discarded shag carpet.
When I was 18, I left home to attend Reed College in Portland, Oregon and there, I was exposed to many new things like tempeh, alternative strippers, and dumpster diving. One evening during my first semester, I was lying belly down on our dorm couch reading Herodotus or something, when my friend Punk Justin threw a loaf of bread at my head. I was like, "Dude!" And he was like, "Hey! I'm trying to share! It's from a dumpster!" He was always trying to shock me because somehow I was the most conservative person he knew at the time. He was the first person (but strangely not the last) to call me a speciesist and he was always running around naked.
I met many colorful characters during my time at Reed. There was an abundance of hippies there always declaring things "commie" or "communal," which was their way of saying, "You have to let me eat that leftover hummus." There is even a whole area of the dining hall at Reed reserved for the Scroungers, called the Scrounge. The Scroungers are a group of students who didn't buy a meal plan and would eat everyone's left overs. The Scrounge even had their own column in Reed's always disappointing newspaper, The Quest. I think that someone even made Scrounger Trading Cards one year. Most of the Scroungers were grateful and polite. They would always get excited when I brought them my half-eaten taco salad shell. Some were bitchy and rude if you brought something not to their liking and you sort of wanted to retort, "Dude. You are literally eating garbage. Shut your mouth." If there was a lot of an item left at the Scrounge uneaten you knew to avoid it because it was gross. Also, the Scrounge were the main cause of the spreading of colds.
Anyway, enough of this preamble, want to see some stuff I have that came from the trash? Yeah you do!
The Trash: The World's Cheapest and Least Exclusive Gallery!
I like the idea of living in a place decorated with original art work, but at this point in my life my main source for these pieces is the garbage. Luckily, I have lived and continue to live with people who are cool with displaying trash paintings.
These two paintings were found around our neighborhood in Brooklyn. I found the one on the right walking back from yoga once day. I wasn't sure if I really wanted it when a 50-something man with a ponytail sporting a beret, walked by me with his thumbs up, wisely nodded and said, "Take it!" I took that as a sign. The one on the right, my old roomie Mike found somewhere. We put it up upside down because it looked less stupid that way.
You might notice, as I did, that many of these trash paintings feature the same terrible shade of midnight blue. My theory that that is the blue that just comes out of the tube. Using the blue straight out of the tube is the best way to tell if a painter really knows his or her craft.
Okay, I want you to prepare yourselves and mentally ready yourselves to be exposed to the world's very best trash painting!
Are you ready????
Here it is!
This lovely damsel was given to me for my 24th birthday when I was still living in Portland. My dear friend Sam found it in a pile of really pathetic landscapes in someone's yard. This is one of my all time favorite gifts I have ever received in my entire life. Look at those demure, yet large nipples! The amorphous blobs for hands! The weird train/tail thingy! And the stars! Oh the stars! We were nervous bringing it into the house initially since the cats were obsessed with it and that is rarely a good sign.
The Trash: Sometimes You Find Shoes Your Size in It!
Sometimes people are weird about thrift-store clothes. My Iranian grandmother used to literally pray to Allah that I wouldn't get some weird disease from my thrift-store clothes. I should probably not tell her about the couple pairs of shoes I swiped from someone's trash while I was drunkenly staggering home from karaoke one night.
Everyone should own red cowboy boots at some part of his or her life. It's one of life's less talked about pleasures. And the following shoes are just so joyful and juvenile and I love them despite never actually having worn them.
Taking shoes from a stoop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn is not as bad as thing my friend Liz does on a regular basis. I once complimented her shirt. She told me that the week prior she was biking home and saw some pink thing in the gutter. She stopped to pick it up, decided it was her size, washed it and now wears it. So, yeah, some of her clothes are literally from the gutter.
The Trash: Your Stop For Affordable Home Furnishings!
Furniture is expensive and there is only so much CB2 you can persuade your parents to buy for you. So why not just start grabbing things from the garbage? I found my super cute night stand getting rained on by someone's recycling. I took it home and now it holds all my unread issues of Harpers and the Believer.
I found this pot in the garbage, where I should put that dying Christmas cactus. Yes. I somehow killed a cactus. Those other cacti look fine, though, right? I should not be allowed to have plants.
The following lamp is one of my prized possessions. When Eric left New York to go "find himself" or "take pictures of lichen" or whatever he was doing in Montana, he gave away most of his belongings. He told me to take this lamp because I like ugly things. It is one of the most lovely ugly things I have ever had the pleasure to look upon.