Turning Block Island trash into art

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:15am
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Leigh Klonsky finds beauty in things most people do not. A straw. A candy wrapper. The bottom of an old aluminum can. These are delicate things, in their own, and she finds them where they should not be: on the beach. 

She picks these things up — something of a reminder of the consumerist society we live in — and looks to surround them with something beautiful. Klonksi is in the process of creating a series of pieces with materials — she freely calls it trash — that she has found on Block Island. A full-time art teacher in Brooklyn, New York, Klonsky has been living on the island since mid-July, acting as a kind of artist-in-residence at the store that Island Free Library Director Kristin Baumann is operating out of her home on High Street.

“It’s incredible to have this space, to be on Block Island, and be near the beach,” Klonsky said. “This is a pretty amazing place.”

When she first arrived here earlier in the summer, she was intending to work in what she teaches — digital art and photography — “but then I encountered the wi-fi out here” — which made her turn to embroidery. Klonski had recently taken a course in Brooklyn with a weaver who specialized in what Klonksi called “zero-waste weaving,” which inspired the work she has been doing this summer.

“As an art teacher I wanted to create. Professionally, it’s important for me to do creative work” during her school summer break, she said. “Then there’s the artistic goal of seeing how these materials relate to each other, and also the color relationships. And the materials remind me of how we consume things.”

Klonsky said she was not trying to make any negative commentary about the people who discard the materials she uses, because she’s aware of how much plastic is in the things she buys herself. “It’s going to end up somewhere,” she said.

By the time this is published, Klonsky will be headed back to Brooklyn, ending her residency, but thinking about returning next summer to create more Block Island art.