Recyclable art on display at The Artists Hand

This octopus art piece was designed by Emily Bensinger (freshman, studio art) and is made with recycled items and keyboard keys. (Contributed photo)

The Artists Hand Gallery on Philadelphia Street is featuring “Throw it in the Ocean,” an exhibit consisting of multiple pieces by Indiana University of Pennsylvania 3-D design students until Saturday.

Sandy Trimble, manager of The Artists Hand, said she was excited to display the first gallery show by IUP students.

“We hadn’t had a show dedicated to IUP students in the gallery yet, so I made some changes and was able to put it in the February schedule,” Trimble said. “I was excited about the fact that it was an IUP student show and that it carried an environmental message, which was appealing.”

The students were required to create a sea creature mounted on coral using only plastic or recycled items. All joints are mechanical – no glue or adhesives were used to connect the plastic items. Instead, the students used bolts, screws, zip ties, brass tacks and many other tools to connect the various plastic items.

Emily Bensinger (freshman, studio art) created a blue octopus for her project.

“Behind it, I put a big black piece of ink and used keys from a computer keyboard as digital ink,” she said. “I chose to do an octopus because I thought it would be really cool to create the movement of all the legs.”

Another student, Maddy Barrante (freshman, studio art), used the project as a way to express her infatuation with sharks. Barrante created a shark missing a fin trapped in a net with three other sea creatures.

“Sharks have a really bad reputation, but they’re killed by being caught in nets,” Barrante said. “Most of them die in the nets because sharks have to swim forward in order to breathe, but if they don’t die, they get pulled onto a boat, get their fins hacked off, and then get thrown back in the water. People fish them for their fins.”

Casey Layton (freshman, art education) said the most difficult aspect was equalizing the weight and manipulating the materials with their limits.

“Actually being able to put the French pleat on the back of my project so that it was level was difficult,” Layton said.

In addition to this challenge, many of the students agreed that finding the time to work on their projects was a burden.

“Throughout the whole duration of the project, we were probably in the studio for around 12 hours every single day, and we still went to our classes,” Kristin Reda (sophomore, art education) said.

Christina Soff (junior, studio art/ psychology) also said the hours were hard to cope with.

“The thing about this project was that we might have put in well over 75 manual hours, but we knew about it before Thanksgiving break,” Soff said. “So, mentally we had already put hours into the piece by thinking about it. A lot of people don’t understand how much time it takes to work on these pieces.”

Steven Loar, the director of the Center for Turning and Furniture Design and professor of the 3-D design students, said he was nothing but impressed with his students’ work on their “Throw it in the Ocean” pieces.

“We’re pretty aggressive in terms of looking at our students and saying what kind of opportunities might help them,” Loar said. “We’re looking for ways to get the students out of the classroom because every bit of research shows that if you can get your students out of the classroom using your subject matter, it completely changes the equation.”

Loar also said he was impressed with the completeness of the idea of each piece, as well as the physical creation of that idea.

“The Throw it in the Ocean” exhibit has been on display at The Artists Hand Gallery since Feb. 3.