Roll-offs, rectangles, and reverence

work in progress - Alyson KhanSince I have been gathering wood scraps for my work, I have added a weird routine to my life. On a regular basis now, I climb into roll-offs around my neighborhood, a rather nicey nice area located in the Country Club, and hunt around in the trash for wood scraps. (I am not a country clubber myself, but it’s a nice place to live.) Climbing around in the roll-offs is a little embarrassing. Every time I go in, I try to pump myself up to not care about what anybody thinks–I’m getting stronger. One time a man was like, “that wood makes great kindling.” Was he being nice or did he think I was scavenging to get fodder for my fire pit outside of my cardboard box house?

Once I am actually in the roll-off, I get more comfortable and focused on finding the scraps. I look for good squares, rectangles, triangles, polygons, and randoms. They are mostly from 2 by 4s, 2 by 6s, and 4 by 4s–the hardwoods are attractive right now–they are smooth and take color well. I gather up a bunch of scraps in several cloth bags and load them into the hatchback, then drop them off at my garage studio.

This new direction in my work has also led to a unique relationship to wood. I feel like each scrap that is rescued from going to the mulcher is special. I know this is cheesy, but in considering the life of the trees it seems significant. I save the scraps from getting ground up or landfilled, and incorporate them into an assemblage where they gain a second life.

I handle each block of wood, cleaning, sanding and priming them all. I notice the knots, penciled marks, cut lines, numbers and notes, printed labels, boot stamps, dents, stickers, staples, and nails. During this stage, there is a subtle dialog happening in my mind and also quiet.

I apply 2 or 3 coats of color and finish with satin varnish. The application of color and sheen instantly transforms each scrap into an object. Becoming an “object” elevates the shape to a level where it can be regarded, considered, even revered. This transformation leads me to realize the sheer power of color.

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