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Works in Progress: Capturing the Essence of a Maine Dump
08/16/2013   Reported By: Tom Porter

Residents in the small Oxford County community of Denmark are being treated to a free artistic display for the next 12 months - every time they visit the municipal dump. The project, called Something Rotten in Denmark, was unveiled yesterday. For the past two weeks, two artists have been "in residence" at the dump, where their mission was, simply, to create a work of art. As part of our ongoing "Works in Progress" series, where we examine the creative process as it happens, Tom Porter paid a visit to Denmark on a rainy day earlier this week.

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Dump art 1

Cecilia Hendrikx (on ladder) and Tara Karpinski work on their mica creation at the Denmark dump.

From the flatlands of Northern Europe to the mountains of western Maine, come two specialists in public art:

"My name is Cecilia Hendrikx and I'm an artist from the Netherlands."

"My name is Tara Karpinski and I work together with Cecilia."

Dump art 1Their immediate challenge is to secure the tarpaulin that's shielding the working area from the rain. They are pressed for time, as the completion deadline looms for the "Something Rotten in Denmark" project, "which is basically making a piece of art that would last for a year, from and of - or around - addressing the town dump," Karpinski says, "so that's what we're here to do."

"Everyone has to use the dump, everyone has to come to the dump - rich and poor have to crush their boxes," says Jamie Hook, artistic and program director at the Denmark Arts Center. Hook says the dump was chosen as the venue because it's the most visited civic institution in the community.

"You know, the Denmark Arts Center is a little bit excited about the assaultive qualities of art - that art can attack people in places where they're not used to seeing," Hook says, "and so then the dump immediately jumped to the top of the list of places where we'd want to put a piece. And then, really, the idea was that there's absolutely no prescription on what they could do."

Hook invited Karpinski and Hendrickx to tackle the project, which Karpinski says took a few days of pure observation. "We had no idea what we were going to do when we first came," she says.

"At first we were just looking for the essence of the dump," says Hendrikx. "And we were just standing in front of the cabin and seeing all the people with their thrash. And then after the first day of examining that. we were looking around at the grounds of the dump and we were really mesmerized by the blinking mica on the ground."

Dump art 4Mica (right), as many Mainers would know, is a flaky, crystalline mineral, often seen sparkling on the ground. Some view it as a dusty nuisance that sticks to carpets and rugs when it gets indoors, but for these artists, the shimmering flakes offered new potential.

Instead of using items of trash for the project, says Karpinski, they chose to use mica as their medium.

"I mean, when we started collecting the mica we collected for three days," Hendrikx says, "and at that point we didn't really know what we were going to do with it - it was just a really instinctual decision - I mean, this is the material, let's pick it up, that's what we're going to work with."

It was nearly a week into the project before the pair decided that they were going to make a mural on the back wall of the municipal building - a 6-foot by 10-foot depiction of two leopards, their spots represented by clusters of of mica.

Dump artIt's an image which Hendrikx feels fits the chosen medium. "This animal really jives with the character of the form of the pieces of mica, so that, also, they're connected in that way."

The following week was spent attaching pieces of mica to the vinyl wall of the municipal hut, something they'd not done before. "Each spot is built up of anywhere between 15 to 30 small pieces, so it's really painstaking," Karpinski says.

Tom Porter: "And how have you been attaching them to the wall?"

Tara Karpinski: "With bookbinding glue. We tested it in Cecilia's shower and it's still sticking, so we thought, 'That's the way to go.'"

"What I quite like about working on location and in public space is that you're somehow not totally in control," Hendriks says, "and I think that that adds an extra element to the whole process of realizing a project."

The mural will be display at the Denmark municipal dump until next summer.

Photos of work in progress: Tom Porter

Photos of finished art work:  Courtesy Denmark Arts Center


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