Tag Archives: found in nature

Collecting as an art process

Many of us collect things, all kinds of things. Some people love to display their collections. For others, it’s more about classifying and arranging, maybe a way of making sense of the world around them.

And then there are artists for whom the collecting is a central part of the art process. Photographer Barry Rosenthal is a junk collector after my own heart, but he takes collecting to a new level in his series Found In Nature.

Green Containers

Straws, Brooklyn, NY

In an interview with Feature Shoot, he said this about his creative process:

From collecting comes inspiration for new ideas and pieces. Collecting is the foundation of the project. I collect everything myself. I collect only from coastal areas that have an immediate connection to the ocean. Periodic collecting is a means of renewing the project. I seem to pick up energy from collecting to carry me further with my work.

Blue Ocean

Collecting is the first step in a creative cycle. Finding a theme, sorting the objects, combining objects, building a composition, filling a space, and finding a lighting solution are steps I go through to make a piece. At some point in building the composition or sculpture some intangible emotional feeling is imparted to the piece. There is an intimacy between the objects and myself. Intimacy transforms into soul.


Forks Knives Spoons

I have learned that plastic is forever. Breaking down plastic pollution into ever smaller bits is not a solution. Plastic must be removed from the environment and not allowed to cover the oceans and land. The oceans need advocates. I do a small part to further the visibility of ocean-borne pollution. Education is important in showing what is already in the environment. I’m an artist. I didn’t start out to make a political statement with my work. I was attracted to these ‘lost’ objects. The work continues to evolve. I want to make a statement about contemporary archeology. We are what we produce.

Oil, Alcohol and Drugs

You can find more of Rosenthal’s Found in Nature series here.

Barry Rosenthal

Family tree

One thing I’ve loved about having an art therapy practice is the way the creative inspiration flows both ways between my clients and me. It’s a real give and take. The materials, process, themes explored, and energy generated always seem to hand me some kind of gift.

In a previous post, I wrote about a mask project at a foster care agency picnic. In preparation for that project, I spray-painted about a hundred pre-made paper mâche masks on top of some scrap cardboard. (An aside about process: The masks, available to buy here, are made from brown craft paper, and I thought it would be a good idea to give people a clean white canvas to work on. For later mask-making, I skipped the spray painting prep and found that it was unnecessary with most materials, the big exception being the much-loved Sharpie markers, which look dull on the brown.)

white masks


When I finished spraying, I realized that I actually had a lot of new canvasses that would be as much fun to fool around with as the actual masks. So I cut some up and played around.




Eventually, I did a larger piece incorporating red-painted twigs and a nest. I called it Family Tree because it seemed like it could be about all my mysterious ancestors, Eastern Europeans whose children (my grandparents) fled the old country. Sadly, somewhere along that journey the stories of those old country ancestors were lost, never to be known to the younger generations on their family tree. Even though I know nothing about them, I feel that they somehow have a lot to do with who I am, and their hazy images found expression in those pieces of junk cardboard.

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