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Junk turns artsy in sculptor's hand

  • Patrick Amiot welds a piece of metal on a sculpture that will eventually be a panther on a tree at his Sebastopol property on Wednesday, September 26, 2012.

    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

When Patrick Amiot discovers that someone has abandoned a used toaster and an old mailbox on the porch near his roadside sculpture garden outside Sebastopol, he's not annoyed. He's delighted.

"Oh look! Gifts!" the self-styled "junk sculptor" exclaimed.

The artist's zest for other people's refuse has made him a leader in the long-established but increasingly popular genre he calls "recycled art."

"I started out using just what I had, but now people drop stuff in my driveway constantly," he said. "What a gift it is to be able to create something that makes people feel good, using junk that was bound to go to the dump."

Amiot expects some 2,000 visitors to his Gravenstein Highway workshop over the next two weekends, during the annual ARTrails open studio tour, when more than 150 artists countywide will open their doors to the public.

"It's crazy," he said. "There's something about what I do that hits a very sensitive chord with both the average Joe and the collector."

It's nothing new for an artist to create artwork out of scraps, but as popular support has grown for sustainable living and wiser use of resources, "recycled art" has gained a wider audience.

"Art made from recycled materials has very broad appeal," said Khysie Horn, owner of the Quicksilver Mine Co. gallery in Forestville. "People love looking at art and saying, &‘Oh, I know what that was made from.' And it resonates more now, because people know artists are reusing things, and not just throwing them away."

Graton artist Monty Monty reassembles broken toys and turn-of-the-century tools into artworks with sly titles like "Roller Blade," for a butcher's knife mounted on a roller skate. He finds viewers like figuring out what he used to make each piece.

"It's like a three-dimensional puzzle," he said. "It's not just what it is, but also what it was."

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