‘Sewstainability:’ Reclaiming and redeeming trash as art

A new Sunshine Coast art exhibition is making a point about the excess waste materials we’re putting into our environment – by making art from it. 

That’s not the only message in Powell River artist Yeonmi Kim’s show, Sewstainability, which opened Feb. 6 at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre’s Doris Crowston Gallery. As with any artist, her work says many different things, some of which cannot be adequately expressed in words. But it is undeniable that Kim is commenting on the mess we make in this world, even if the point is beautifully made. 

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Kim works with a variety of materials, including fabric, wood, paint and recycled plastic packages. Some of her most striking pieces use Google map-like images of the Powell River area, which she has recast using plastic trash from area beaches. 

“Usually, I prefer to find the hidden character from old stuff rather than using them for an objective intent,” Kim told Coast Reporter. “By using ordinary recycled materials in my work, such as plastic packaging, it alerts us to the seriousness of environmental pollution and wasteful consumerism. I would like to produce art to question the audience and ask them to think about practicing sustainability in our daily lives.” 

She adds: “I love the form of maps with the combination of geometry and organic shapes. Satellite imagery is now familiar to everyone because of their frequent use in media and navigation.” 

Curator Sadira Rodrigues said she’s pleased to have been able to bring Kim’s show to the lower part of the Coast. 

“The work is extraordinary,” Rodrigues said. “She’s commenting on environmental disaster and climate change and connects it to materials that are from here.” 

Kim said that although the effects of climate change and excess garbage in our environment are potentially extremely serious, she hopes the Sewstainability exhibit is seen in an uplifting light. 

“We live in such a challenging era. We all work hard to live well. But what is well-being?” she asked. “I want to think about living sustainably without destroying our planet. Better late than never. Optimism is the energy of the human condition.” 

She also notes that not all the work is directly about sustainability or climate change, “but offers solutions through use of recycled material.” 

Sewstainability runs until Feb. 28. An opening reception will be held in the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 10 and there will be a meet-the-artist session on Feb. 17.

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