For UNH alum, “eco-art” creates real bond to the world
Published: Friday, May 4, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
This story was produced as part of “Sustainable Stories,” a reporting project by newswriting students in the UNH Journalism Program. You can find more from the project at sustainu.org.
Tim Gaudreau builds “green furniture” - literally. He creates couches from grass and dirt.
Gaudreau is a self-described “eco-artist,” a category of artist that falls into the larger genre of sustainability-related art, which is becoming increasingly present in the art world.
“What that means is that basically I’m not driven by any specific mediums, but by the issues at hand,” Gaudreau said of eco-art.
Green furniture is just one example of his artwork; Gaudreau’s work varies from individual projects to collaborations with others, across different artistic mediums. Gaudreau said that his work is not typically media specific.
“A core belief of mine [is that] in our modern world, we don’t often have authentic connections with the world around us,” he said. “The couches are a trick to get people to connect with the outside world.”
The grass couches are as straightforward as they sound. “[I] just shape a sculpture out of a pile of dirt and plant grass seeds,” he said of the outdoor furniture. The sculpture currently sits along a bike path in Newburyport, Mass.
Gaudreau has long been interested in the environment and exploring related topics in his work. A UNH alumnus, Gaudreau studied photography at the university, where a professor inspired him to pursue his interest in environmental issues.
“You can be interested in so many different things, but you only have one lifetime to create work. Go with what you’re passionate about,” Gaudreau said, repeating the words of his former professor, Chris Enos. “Environmental advocacy is what I’m passionate about.”
Since earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1992, Gaudreau has worked on many diverse projects, all of which relate back to environmental advocacy.
One of Gaudreau’s favorite projects has been his lost and found posters series, which he refers to as guerilla-style artwork on the street. He worked on this project from 2000 – 2003 and recently revisited it for Turn Here, a soon-to-open show at the Borowsky Gallery in Philadelphia.
The artwork looks like typical lost-and-found posters, but instead has images of trash and litter on them, as well as Gaudreau’s phone number and website.
“LOST!” reads one poster with a Polaroid picture of a cloud on it. “Clean air -- replaced by smog. Last breathed here in 1793 (arguably 1492).”
“FOUND!” another poster reads, depicting a Panda Express soda cup lying within leaves. “Found in Great Bay Wildlife Refuge. Well worn, may be native fetish.”
“I need to stand up for it because I see it,” Gaudreau said of the issues addressed with the posters and of making himself available for feedback. “[The project was] really important to me - and the reaction - and what I got out of it.”
Gaudreau has completed many projects on his own to explore environmental issues, but also enjoys collaborating with others, especially within his own community.
To increase recycling in Portsmouth, where he currently lives, Gaudreau worked with the city to place recycling bins and create a new recycling pick-up route. The bins are decorated with tiles that were hand painted by local school children.
Recently, Gaudreau visited UNH to discuss his artwork, as well as the artwork of Chris Jordan, which was on display at the UNH Museum of Art through the first week in April. Gaudreau draws some similarities to Jordan’s work, but feels that their overall approach is different.
“[Jordan is an] artist first… that’s more the driving force of it. It’s flipped for me,” he said, referring to how he views himself first as an activist.
Jordan is a photographer based in Seattle whose project, Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait, was loaned to UNH from the Kopeikin Gallery in California. Along with the UNH Museum of Art, the UNH Sustainability Academy co-sponsored the exhibition, with support from The Carsey Institute, The Office of Inclusive Excellence Initiatives, The Office of the Provost, and The Center for the Humanities.
The purpose of Jordan’s project was to look at “contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics,” Jordan said in a statement on his website.