Artist explores the beauty in ‘the detritus of our everyday lives’
By Olivia Robinson
Published May 22, 2018
The adage that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure is an understatement for oil-based painter Andrea Kastner. The Haliburton School of Art + Design’s reclaim artist in residence for 2018 is sharing her expertise as an artist whose work underlines the beauty of neglected cityscapes and scenes of refuse.
“I like to look at places that we don’t choose to look at first: the backs of houses, the garbage, the little holes and crumbly bits in our everyday life,” she said.
When she saw the advertisement for the reclaim artist residency at the Haliburton School of Art + Design, she immediately applied for the position.
“It seemed like a great opportunity to speak with people at the landfill and to be able to talk to them and find out how they work,” she said.
Kastner is originally from Montreal, but now resides in Binghamton, New York. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Mount Allison University, and her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Alberta.
Kastner describes several moments that led her to become fascinated with art and refuse. The first moment was when she was at her parents’ house and noticed a plastic bag stuffed with other plastic bags. She brought it to art school and began collaging the pieces, sparking an interest in what she calls “the detritus of our everyday lives.”
While living in Edmonton, Kastner was struck by the vastness of the prairie-like landscape of the city and the people who inhabited that space. There, she began going through garbage and bringing it back to her studio, curious about what it would tell her.
“I would open up the bags and take out all the objects inside them and lay them out in a grid like an archaeology dig,” she said. “I’d try to connect the dots of the people who were living there.”
Kastner’s work has been described as the “sacred nature of rejected things” – a lesson she aspires to share with the Haliburton community during her residency.
“What I hope that my paintings are able to do – and by visiting the studio – is that people spend a little extra time looking at things they don’t normally glance at,” she said.
The school’s Reclaim Artist in Residence program is the only one of its kind in the province that allows artists to work with a municipal landfill. This year marks the fourth year that the Haliburton School of Art + Design has offered the residency, but it’s the first year that a paint-based artist has held the position.
“The importance of the project is to provide education to the public on what’s happening in the landfill and the impact that the landfill has in our community,” said the school’s dean, Sandra Dupret.
“It provides a look through the eyes of the artist,” she said of the residency. “Part of the allure of that is you think of the landfill as an icky, yucky place, which it is, but there is a sublime beauty in the way the artist can interpret it.”
When the school approached the municipality of Dysart et al about creating the partnership with the landfill, everyone was receptive to the idea and in educating the broader community, said Dupret.
“We’re hopeful that people will come up to the campus and people will approach [Kastner] and ask her questions. If they see her in the landfill, ask her what she’s doing and why she’s doing it.”
Connecting with residents is also an important component of her residency, said Kastner, especially in having a dialogue about landfills and refuse in the Haliburton community.
“I hope that when they look at their surroundings that they see it with a slightly different point of view, and that the things they are looking at speak to them a little more and glow a little brighter.”
Kastner’s residency begins on May 28 for a duration of six weeks. Kastner will have access to a studio on the Haliburton School of Art + Design campus.
She plans to hold a public lecture about her work, but a date has not yet been determined. To learn more about Kastner and her work, visit www.andreakastner.net.