Art from waste: An Interview with artist Vivian Krishnan

Artist Vivian Krishnan and works.

Artist Vivian Krishnan (left center) and friends modeling her work at the fashion show. (Photo by Hari Baumbach)

Reusing materials that would otherwise go to waste is becoming more common in the art world. Fort Lewis College art student Vivian Krishnan is one of these artists who decided to turn “trash” into art. Last week, her work along with other students’ work was showcased at FLC’s Art Department fundraiser at the Lost Dog Bar in downtown Durango. Here’s what Vivian has to say about her work.

Hari Baumbach: Tell me a little about yourself (background, hometown, major, artists who inspire you, art that you like to do).

Vivian Krishnan: I was born and raised in Kailua, Oahu HI. I live in Denver when I’m not attending school at the Fort. My major is in Studio Art with an Art History minor. For the time being I have been very inspired by multiple designers like Vallentino, Hugo Boss, and Calvin Klein. Robin Barcus Slonina who is a sculptor has had a huge influence on me. Besides sculpture, I love working with textiles and well as printmaking.

HB: How did the wearable art project come to be and how/ why did you decide to use materials that would’ve otherwise gone to waste to create your pieces?

VK: The first time I tried out this wearable art idea was when I started one of sculpture projects assigned by Jay Dougan. We were asked to find an artist we liked and produce work inspired by them. The artist I chose was Robin Barcus. She takes dress forms to a whole new level she makes a lot of her pieces out of natural things like pinecones and flowers so I thought I would use materials that were quite the opposite.

HB: What materials are used and what techniques did you employ to turn the materials into your pieces?

VK: For a few of my pieces I used plastic grocery bags from Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowe’s. By fusing multiples layers of the plastic with an iron I was able to create a sturdy fabric. Other materials that I used were hardware cloth, newspaper, bubble wrap, packaging foam and peanuts, and City Market paper bags.

HB: How did you envision the impact your work would have on your audience? Did you have a specific message in mind? If so, what was your message?

Vivian and I

Vivian and I after the fashion show.

VK: I haven’t really thought of the impact. People just kept telling me how pretty the outfits were so it doesn’t seem very different from making normal clothes. My message is mostly just that if we have these materials lying around why not just give them one last good use and make something out of them. All it takes is time and I think its time worth spending. Playing around with the idea of what is fabric is another key factor in my work.

HB: What part do you think artists play/ can play/ should play in creating awareness about social and environmental issues?

VK: Artists have a huge influence on others. The audience may not agree or like it but, if someone see’s work with a clear message they will probably remember it and tell others about it. Talking about the process we go through as artists is also important. When I was making my pieces, it was very important to me that I limit the amount of waste I created.

HB: In which ways do you feel your work could change people’s relationship to waste?

Rubbish can be pretty! Recycling can lead to beautiful things and I just hope that people can see from my work that if you’re not going to limit your waste at least deal with it properly.

HB: In your own words, how did you feel the fashion show on Thursday came together? Were you happy with the outcome?

VK: The show could not have happened with out all the students that helped and the handful of teachers who supported it. There was a lot of teamwork that went into the production of the show. I’m just really proud of all of the artists, students, and the Gallery Management class that helped Sarah Swoboda, Elizabeth Gand, and myself. I am so happy about how it went! I couldn’t have asked for a better night.

HB: What are your hopes for the future? Are you planning to continue working with “unusual” materials on future projects?

VK: Absolutely, I have become obsessed with using plastic grocery bags. My apartment is full of them just waiting to be used! I hope to make more clothes and perhaps accessories.

HB: Do you have any final comments or statements you would like to add?

VK: I really just want to thank Elizabeth Gand (the art history professor) for taking an interest in my work and giving me the chance to push it further. Also, there is nothing wrong with being more aware of ourselves and our surroundings. Recycling is so easy!

~ Hari Baumbach

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