Plastic bottle cap picture by Mary Ellen Croteau
The caps are synthetic artifacts, plastic products that usually aren’t (and more often, can’t be) recycled. Self-described political artist Mary Ellen Croteau explores absurdities of social norms, exposing the “underlying bias and sexist assumptions on which culture is constructed. So says her website, but her amazing artworks also show a wicked environmental sensitivity which you can try at home in DIY art projects.
The Chicago-based artist started playing with bottle caps, making simple strings, or columns. Single strands suspended from ceilings looked like spinal cords, the strands are also mounted on metal rods and planted in the ground.
The varying cap sizes and colors got her thinking about Chuck Close’s painted portraits, and inspired her large self-portrait made entirely of caps. That piece (shown above) is entitled “Close”, and measures 8 feet by 7 feet.
No mention of how many caps were used, but she does say it will naturally disintegrate over time. That Zen-like impermanence means this work isn’t a substitute for landfills – the plastic will ultimately end up in the wastestream.
Croteau says, “I firmly believe in the power of the visual, and my work is my voice: a social critique and a visual challenge to all the cultural detritus we are force-fed every day. My art is about looking at things in a slightly different way, and is intended to undermine the status quo with wit and humor.”
Patrick JB Flynn, Art Editor of The Progressive, said, “The beauty of Croteau’s work lies largely in the humor employed to deliver some serious trouble.”
I’m drawn in by her simple shapes and Lego-like colors. These materials are everywhere. Look under your kitchen sink, bathroom cabinet, and inside your fridge: how many dozen caps do you toss out each month?
Green Prophet readers interested in trying their hand at Croteau-inspired upcycling can pick up an endless supply of free “raw materials” on the streets (I can testify that Amman, as example, is awash in bottle cap litter).
Refer to Croteau’s “How To…” page for directions. Is a self-portrait too daunting? Then check out the plastic-bottle-cap pages on online “pinboard” Pinterest. Beware the risk of losing hours of idle (but lovely) image surfing there, but you’ll find remarkable examples of how to re-use these plastic demons.
If you do re-purpose some, send us pictures.