I hate taking out the trash. Not in the same way that I hate doing a sink full of hot dishes on a stifling summer afternoon. It makes me sick—literally sick. Smells of rotting meat and coffee grounds are no match for the odor reducing garbage bags. At the smell, I can feel my face drain of color, as sweat beads on my forehead. Doubled over, I dry heave next to the garbage dumpster.

Walking into the GalleriE CHIZ on Ellsworth Ave, to visit Lori Hornell’s exhibition, “Stuff and Nonsense,” I discovered Lori has a different view of trash. For Lori, everything has possibility; nothing is trash. She is not revolted by the remains of last night’s dinner. She finds a second life for everything. Instead of throwing away paint brushes—tiny clumps of paint still clinging to the abused bristles—or last week’s Sunday paper, she makes them into pieces of art. Pieces of antique dolls find their way into balls of newspaper or on top of a body made from computer chips, emory boards, and folded paper. Old tomato cages and pieces of wire become artistic representations of looms. Lori manages to weave pieces of normally discarded material—seemingly unrelated—into pieces of art.

Instead of forcing the lid down on a garbage can as pasta boxes and broken hangers push for freedom, Lori liberates discarded items. She allows for their reincarnation. She does not push for the items to be something their not. If a hat does not seem to fit onto a head and seems to look more like a skirt, Lori makes it into a skirt. Nothing is forced into the confines of garbage. She gives them the freedom to become something different. As Lori says, “clutter has a mind of its own.” The trash is alive.

Humor can be found in many things, and trash is not an exception. A piece entitled “Funnybones,” depicts pieces of chicken bones wrapped in brightly colored comic strips. I even imagine Lori snatching away a sock or tissue box that would be destined for the trash, spiriting it away to her worktable. In my mind, she is like a crusader, rescuing holy relics. She braves the garbage, saving junk from its fate. I am the cowardly servant, not prepared for the fight. I drop the garbage in the dumpster, and the door slams to my house. I am safe.

Where I see revulsion, Lori sees a chance to laugh; where I see pieces of meaningless junk, Lori sees the potential for creativity and expression. I look at her art and wonder how many used tea bags and empty pens I’ve thrown away. How many items and ideas I’ve automatically dismissed as broken. How many times have I put the lid on the garbage before giving it a second chance?

Filed under: Prose, Reviews: Film and Visual Art