Guest Post: Repurpose, Reuse, Reinvent & Rebirth: Interview with a Texas Mixed-Media Artist that lives by Creative Reuse

Elizabeth Winters-Montemayor, Artist & Mother of 2
Elizabeth Winters-Montemayor, Artist & Mother of 2

Elizabeth Winters-Montemayor is an artist and mother of two, who currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin. She creates pen and ink drawings and paintings that examine the interplay between people and furniture. Winters-Montemayor holds a Master’s Degree in Art Education from University of Texas at Austin, where she first met Mary Elizabeth Cantu, spare parts Founder and Director.

Spare Parts helps place a variety of collected materials and supplies donated by businesses and individuals into the hands of artists and educators with creative visions for turning these items into works of art. This is twofold because it both provides access to arts and creativity in the community as well as helps to reduce waste and promote a green lifestyle.  When thinking of what artists can create with repurposed materials, the possibilities are endless. In examining the process of an artist that adheres to this creative reuse vision, we can better understand how common household materials can be saved and reinvented.

I interviewed mixed media artist Dee Dee Marovich, who creates collages comprised of layers of repurposed materials, at her home and studio in Austin, Texas.  We discussed her process and methods for creating works of art from repurposed materials, as well as her personal goal of getting extra materials into the right hands.

Dee Dee Marovich’s current work can be seen at the Travis Heights Art Trail held in Austin in the fall.

How do you describe your art?
Dee Dee–My expression of art is through mixed media collage. I repurpose, reuse, reinvent and rebirth images. Old becomes new, uselessness changes to possibility, and uninteresting becomes charming.

Many people have described some of my work as whimsical. I believe that life is difficult at times, and I want my art to remind people to find the humor and interest in common objects.

What materials do you use in your art?
Dee Dee–The media I work with includes items such as: magazine images, photographs, wrapping paper, junk mail, gems, feathers, plastics, jewelry, shoes, straw, ribbons and seeds. Chocolate bar packaging and coffee bags also find their way into my art. The objects are like puzzle pieces that eventually find their home.

history 1When and how did you first become interested in reusing materials as an art media?
Dee Dee–As a child I saw my Dad making things out of scraps of wood (see left picture). He gathered materials leftover from construction sites. He started with an idea and created functional benches, wagons, napkin holders and birdhouses. I saw him transform raw materials into useful art. Watching my Dad work with his hands fascinated and inspired me. I loved the smell of sawdust, the buzz of the tools, and the intensity he had while he worked. It intrigued me to watch him create. He repurposed before the term was coined.

How do you choose and collect your reusable materials?
Dee Dee–I start by looking through magazines in search of pictures that speak to me.  When I pause on a page I tear it out to come back to later. Often I immediately have an idea or a vision for a finished piece. For example, I when I see coffee in a cup I imagine removing the liquid and gluing a new object in the cup such as a flower or a fruit.

wrappersI’m also attracted to bright, colorful wrappers (see right picture).  I have finished two pieces that have shiny gum wrappers in the background.  As soon as I saw a friend remove the wrapper I asked if I could have the turquoise foil.  I began to collect that color.  I knew right there and then that I would use it in an art piece.  The piece related to the sea and the wrappers represented the ocean.  If the object is beautiful to me in some way, I will find a purpose for it in my art.

How do you organize and sort your collection of reusable materials?
Dee Dee–After some time I start to look through my collection of images and reusable materials for themes that emerge. From there I start to narrow down and sort into several boxes based on these themes.I also organize found objects such as jewelry, keys, and feathers and broken eye glasses into plastic bins by category.

What are some of your themes?
Dee Dee–Some recurring themes and colors that emerge include: bold colors from fruits, red paint, brown and golden colors with images of hair, coffee bags watches and chocolate wrappers. I also tend to collect graphics related to wine and travel.

Can you please describe a few of your artworks to help illustrate how the collected material drives the outcome?

7076 Percent Cacao
70‐76% Cacao

Dee Dee–70-76% Cacao shows the style and beauty of the packaging for chocolate. I am attracted to the gold foils and the lettering. The word Ghiradelli reminds me of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The French words remind me of a friend I met in Paris who gave me the Chocolate Noir. The colors of red, gold and shades of brown with a touch of blue are as satisfying as feeling the chocolate on my tongue. With just enough chocolate, life is divine!

Juniper 46172
Juniper 46172

Juniper 46172 was my phone number for 19 years. When I was a child phone numbers in the Bay Area started with a word. My family had one black dial phone, and when the new pink “Princess” model came into the household it was a big deal. Years later, my sister sent me the postcard of the woman talking on the phone that I used in my collage. This was a postcard that I had kept on a bulletin board near my phone for years. The earring that I added was something I found. I made this piece at my sister’s house in England and I used pages from a London phonebook as the background. This was my first time to use a box frame.

Heels and Lace
Heels and Lace

Heels and Lace was my first attempt at assemblage. I was attracted to the red and gold wrapping paper which I used as the background. Stiletto heels fascinate me as objects with interesting shapes and curves.  While working on this piece I found my little red heels and thought that they would be a good extension of the piece. I added the gems on the shoes glued to the frame to pick up the gems on the inside of the piece.  In this case old shoes become new.

How important is recycling and reusing materials in your daily life?
Dee DeeRecycling and reusing is on my mind all the time. I save materials for my grandchildren’s art classes. Also, after I go through magazines I take them to Assisted Living centers that I know can use them for art projects. I like for objects to go to the most appropriate new home for their use. For me, it is important to not throw in the garbage what someone else can reinvent.

How might you encourage others to reuse materials?
Dee DeeMany household items can be repurposed and given to artists and educators. There is no shortage of elementary schools, high schools, preschools, childcare centers, assisted living facilities— they are in every neighborhood in most cities.  You can research what is needed and pass on those materials.

Dee Dee Marovich
Dee Dee Marovich

Artist Biography
Dee Dee Marovich has three daughters and four grandchildren.  She is originally from San Francisco, and now resides in Austin.  Dee Dee loves to travel, tap dance teach and create.

Dee Dee Marovich in Mayfield Lavender Fields in England, photo courtesy of the artist.