Mark Langan discovers potential in trashed corrugated boxes and creates art that is both easy on the eye and on the environment.
Artist Mark Langan’s neighbours in Cleveland, Ohio are used to having him rummaging through their trash cans. It does not bother them; in fact it probably makes them feel a part of an ecologically creative process. It is not inspiration that Mark is foraging for; it is raw material for his masterpieces.
Throughout his life Mark had worked with traditional art projects like acrylic and oil paintings, silk screening, photography, wood carving and colour pencil renderings. So how did the inspiration to work with reclaimed material come about? He says, “I was readying some boxes for trash day when, while collapsing the material, I noticed the wavy fluted medium sandwiched between the two paper layers on a corrugated cardboard box. It immediately struck me to try to create sculpture using the material. I had never used it before, not even noticed it but my first creation with the material came out so well that I have been hooked on it since.”
Mark’s works are created only and only with corrugated boxes, non-toxic glue, a razor knife, a cutting edge and a mat. He relishes the fact that he does not have to run to the store to pick up materials, as most of it generally comes from his own personal use and sometimes the neighbour’s discarded TV box or generous ‘donations’ from friends. Mark tries his best to use it all, even grinding up bits in an industrial shedder to mix with glue and use as sculpting material.
In a world where art can cost as much as a house, it has not been easy for Mark to convince his buyers to spend money on what literally was once garbage; the common perception being that since it was made of recycled material its value should be less. Mark explains, “They cannot fathom the time that is involved in producing the art. Most projects involve cutting thousands of indivi2dual pieces that are dry fitted first and then glued into place one after the other. It’s a long process.”
Each of Mark’s creation is the result of many hours of patient and tireless labour. A lot of Mark’s sculptures are commissions received from businesses and individuals, often with a request for personalisation. This adds an obvious link to the business and gives it extra meaning. “Such was the case as in my latest commission for a firm in Tampa, Florida called Keller Consulting, a waste management business that supplied me boxes with one they partner. Specific labelling and graphics was made prevalent throughout the art,” he says.
Mark admits that in the past he had enjoyed working using varied methods and mediums but corrugated art gives him an edge as he is able to generate income from it. He says, “The proverbial “starving artist” is very much true in many respects but what saved the day is my own personalised artform. It allows me to create and enjoy my art and at the same time be able to provide income for my family.” It has also given him an opportunity to make connections and interact with some noteworthy individuals. He has had the unique distinction of having his work displayed in Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museums in San Francisco and Atlantic City. The appreciation keeps him motivated to continue to innovate in the coming years.
Mark is under no illusion that his recycled art is not making a sizeable difference to landfill issues. But, he is hopeful that his creations at least make people stop and think of how they can contribute to the recycling movement. “It is something rather than nothing. Creating sustainable art gives me a better sense of purpose. It stirs conversation, and even though it is quirky, maybe even bizarre, it is indeed art. I am happy that I create things that pose interest and can make recycling fun!” he signs off.
Text By Himali Kothari
Photographs Mark Langan