Most of us probably don’t put a lot of thought into where our “trash” goes once it leaves the street curb and it’s thrown into the back of a garbage truck. Out of sight, out of mind. Out with the old, in with the new.
But in the quest for the latest-and-greatest in our ephemeral world, it is possible for recycled items to materialize into something lasting. Just ask Laura Eng.
“I have been a dumpster diver since I was a kid” Laura says. “All of my work comes from recycled materials. […] My trash finds are mostly electronics and furniture. Printers, scanners, all kinds of shit. People get the newest thing or a bigger thing and then just chuck out the ‘old.’ I don’t know if trash is a treasure, but I think people put the idea of ‘new’ above usefulness and function. That’s where I come in.”
From a young age, Laura has exhibited a fine-tuned, educational understanding of art. “When I was seven, my mom had me lie so I could attend my first art class at the Minneapolis Institute of Art that was for kids eight-to-10,” she recalls. “I did those summer classes until I was about 13.” Additionally, she holds a degree in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, from which she graduated in 2010.
And along the way, the mantra of reduce, reuse, recycle became integral to her creations. Laura remembers drawing on the floor with her dad on recycled office paper, what she calls her first “sketchbook,” and the times that she and her brother implored their father to drive down alleys to “check out the stuff.”
As an artist, she continues searching those back alleys—hunting for, pillaging, and tearing apart computers and televisions. She integrates their electronic components, as well as small detritus, nails, wires, LED lights, and cardboard pieces into micro scenes that she fondly admires. “I see them as sort of frozen scenes in the world’s strangest play,” says Laura. “Or maybe it’s just a simple childish desire for a dollhouse I’ll never have.”
With a love of urban spaces, Laura takes National Geographic and fashion magazines to create collages that center around “alleyways, dumpsters, cramped apartments, empty streets, kitchens, anything that that sits behind what the average person sees.”
As The Growler’s DIY Issue hits stands, Laura will have already hit the road to Muskogee, Oklahoma, working the next two months at a renaissance festival—managing a food booth on the weekends and sculpting clay horns on weekdays. She’s also currently working on graphic novels, full of adult fairy tales centered on the perils of the 21st century. “Truth be told, I change up style every two years or so—out of boredom or scratching an itch,” Laura reflects. “So today it’s graphic novels and illustration. Next year, who knows?”