Where does your trash go once you’ve thrown it out? Have you ever wondered? Do you even care? Although NASA is (thankfully) discovering other inhabitable planets, you should. Each year humans generate about 230 million tons of trash — that calculates to about 5 pounds per person every day. That’s why 36-year-old Gabriel Dishaw decided to sculpt your useless rubbish into intricate creations.
“My passion for working with metal and mechanical objects has been essential in the evolution of my art. It provides me an avenue to express myself in a way that brings new life to materials such as typewriters, adding machines and old computers – technology that would normally end up in a landfill,” Dishaw said. “My mission is to create dialogue and help find creative, environmentally sound ways of repurposing e-waste.”
The Indiana based artist allowed us to pick his brain to uncover the reasons, methods and hopes behind his so-called “junk art.”
COURTNEY CREEL: How long have you been making upcycled sculptures?
GABRIEL DISHAW: Wow, how quickly time flies by. I’ve been doing this for about 19 years now.
CC: What made you decide to start creating these sculptures? Was there a defining moment in your life that spurred that decision?
GD: It all started when I was in 9th grade, and my then art teacher gave us the opportunity to choose our next project. He had about 30 different examples, and one was “Junk Art.” I did some research and made it my own. I spent the following week in my father’s garage taking stuff apart. My first piece, Mary on a Donkey, ended up winning me first place in a local art contest. This was that defining moment in my life that I had something here. It has evolved a lot since then, but I find myself looking at everyday items and re-imagining them as something different. A single piece of discarded material can influence an entire sculpture.
CC: What made you choose to use recycled parts versus new materials?
GD: I believe I chose this material because It was readily available and had a low barrier of entry. It didn’t cost a lot of money, and in the end all I really needed was creativity.
CC: Have you dabbled in other arts or is sculpting your passion?
GD: Yes, I’ve always been creative and really enjoyed all types of mediums. I started drawing early on, but when I discovered sculpting, I found my real passion and haven’t really looked back.
CC: What pieces and parts do you use to form your sculptures?
GD: I use adding machines, typewriters and anything mechanical, but I use a lot of electronics, mostly because they are so readily available. Technology is advancing so quickly in this area that this stuff is replaced every few years.
CC: Where do you get these parts?
GD: I get them from all over but mostly from family/friends and my local antique and flea markets. I have even had instances where people have dropped stuff off at my doorstep knowing that I will put good use to something they don’t want to see end up in a landfill.
CC: You can only have one meal for the rest of your life: what is it?
GD: I’m a paleo eater, so my ideal meal would be beef steak (medium), sweet potatoes, carrots and a tall glass of mead.
CC: Every piece you create is very intricate and extremely detailed. Is there a typical time frame involved with completing a piece?
GD: It varies depending on the size and details, but, on average, it takes about 40 hours of studio time to create one of my Star Wars Busts. My larger scale pieces can take as long as a month.
CC: If we were to walk in your creative space while you were working, what would we see and experience?
GD: You would see hundreds of plastic bins organized on shelves along each wall. Inside of these bins, you would find vintage electronic parts from computers, adding machines, typewriters, etc. On shelves above my working space, you would find unique pieces of art and mechanical objects that inspire me and will eventually become part of a sculpture.
CC: You clearly have a passion for Star Wars, but where did your idea to create sneakers stem from?
GD: I really enjoy sneakers. In fact I have about 300+ sneakers in my collection. This is just another example of one my passions influencing my art. It was very natural. One day I was brainstorming about my next project and thought wouldn’t it be cool to take one of my favorite sneakers (Nike Dunk Low) and create it out of upcycled materials. My goal was to make it as close to the real thing, so people would actually mistake it for the real thing.
CC: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you wish you had with you?
GD: I’m going to approach this from a survival perspective since I really enjoy the outdoors: a knife, my girlfriend and something to start fire with.
CC: Are you a full-time artist or do you also carry out a “day job”?
GD: I’m not a full time artist. I probably work about 40 hours a week on my art, but don’t rely on my art income to pay my bills. My goal long term is to become financially independent and do art full time. I currently work for a large retailer in learning and development. It’s fun and different every day.
CC: What is your end goal for your art?
GD: I hope that others appreciate my art and that it inspires people to think creatively about upcycling and recycling. In the coming years and decades, we are going to be faced with these ever-growing challenges — whether we like it or not — and it will take creative solutions to solve our pollution issues.