Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tin Can Art

Festive tin can flowers decorating a chain link fence
surrounding an urban community garden.
Andy Warhol may have been the first,
certainly the most famous, tin can artist.
Over the past several years I've touted a number of rather weird art media from ice and snow to fire and water. Obviously, on the weirdness scale, tin cans kind of fall somewhere in between those. I should point out that tin cans today are not made of tin but steel, or in the case of beverages, aluminum. Thus, when I refer here to "tin" cans I'm speaking generically, and not actually referring to cans made of tin. However, sometimes the steel is still tin plated or features a plastic coating on the inside, depending upon the acidity of the contents and other factors. Quite apart from the metal, insofar as the artist is concerned, there are two types of cans, the painted ones (aluminum beverage cans) and the ones with paper labels. Unless your name is Andy Warhol, it's best to remove the paper labels before utilizing the can as part of your artistic endeavors. (Be sure to rinse or wash out the inside too.) Once the can is stark naked, the result is a shiny surface that, with a little elbow grease, lends itself to polishing. If, on the other hand, you wish to go in the opposite direction, there are chemicals coatings available which produce an accelerated rusting effect (by accelerated I mean several weeks outside exposed to the weather). Laura Jacoby's tin can tops (below) is an outstanding example of this effect.

Laura Jacoby's tin can top art utilizing a rust accelerating coating.
Barbie will love you for it.
Tin cans are a very humble, plentiful, virtually free art material allowing the artist to feel noble in preserving our environment through recycling. However, though an inexpensive means of creating long-lasting sculptural art, very often the materials necessary to mount, bind, color, and preserve the metal don't come cheap. Nancy Adams (below) works on a rather large scale, using an oxyacetylene torch to create and decorate her various metal containers. If you're drawn to this rather "macho" type of tin can sculpture, you might first want to check out the prevailing price of such a torch, then the cost of the gases needed to have some fun with it. Speaking of fun, don't try this at home without adult supervision. Get someone who knows to show you how to use the damned thing before sparking it up. To the other extreme, the tiny, pin-cushion rocker (right) requires only needle-nose plyers, some glue, fabric, a cotton ball or two, and lots of patience--perfect for Barbie's playhouse.

Nancy Adams uses an oxyacetylene torch to etch
decorative lines into her big tin can.
My Garden Helper, Deb Cohen
In that tin cans come in quite a variety of sizes up to and including 55-gallon drums, the same is true as to the scale in which a tin can artist may choose to work. Deb Cohen's My Garden Helper (left) might require a garage workshop, while the delicate, Latas Dedinho (finger cans, below right) or Jill Porter's Coke can earrings (below) could be considered kitchen table art.
Polished metal jewelry.

You don't have to tell anyone they're made from a Coke can.
Aluminum cans are a delight to work with, though somewhat delicate when finished.
And while we're on the subject of Coke cans, in addition to fine jewelry, the Coca-Cola company makes a damned fine automobile too, at least when Jo Sanderson of Sandy's CanCars (above) gets done sipping their fine carbonated beverage. Wouldn't you just love to cruise "the strip" in a machine like that?

I'm not sure what's in the cans but whatever the case, it probably tastes like chicken.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that not all tin can sculptures require some form of bonding. There is a whole genre of such art which has come to be known as "stacked can art," (above), probably first pioneered by a bored stock boy at Safeway (an American grocery retailer). Best of all these art gallery installations do not require the emptying of such cans...just a good, sturdy floor and a ban on shopping carts.

One of the foremost experts on tin can art.
You know you've come upon an important, legitimate, art medium when you see magazines and how-to books published on the subject (above). Major art galleries and museums have also added legitimacy to tin can art. Hundreds of thousands of viewers have no doubt seen Jeff Koons' Michael Jackson and Bubbles. Now Sunland, California, artist Seaton Brown has created a 144-square-foot portrait of the King of Pop using 1,680 empty soda pop cans (below). The contents, bubbles included, have gone down the drain. Brown doesn't drink the stuff. Normally, the 40-year-old artist likewise doesn't dabble in "Pop" art or other alternate media. He earns his living from oil paintings and as a freelance illustrator. Yet the whole concept was too good to resist--Pop as a style, pop cans as a medium, the "King of Pop" as the subject. Brown says about 20% of his raw materials came empty, purchased from a recycling station. For the rest he paid retail, spending, he estimates, about $600 on soda cans both empty and full, and another $400 on other materials. The tricky part, he notes, was finding good skin tones. The solution came in the form of the cream soda, root beer, and cherry-vanilla flavors of the Whole Foods brand. Whole foods?

Seaton Brown's King of Pop. It makes me thirsty just to look at it.
A picture frame made from pop cans.
Andy Warhol, the original "King of Pop," was my idea.


No comments:

Post a Comment