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What roles do color and scale play in Rowen’s sculpture? (Rowen Durban / Image courtesy of
the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers)

Talking Trash

This artist played with scale and found materials to build an award-winning sculpture

Rowen Durban strives to make art that will grab people’s attention and get them thinking. By setting a “perfect” house atop a grimy pile of trash in her award-winning sculpture, 18-year-old Rowen knew she could get people to focus on recycling. A freshman at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, Rowen is studying graphic design.

When did you first get serious about art?
I got serious when I started taking AP art classes my junior year. I was introduced to drawing and printmaking and worked with a teacher who showed me my creative potential. I knew then that’s what I wanted to study in college.

What inspired this award-winning sculpture?
My teacher asked me to create a sculpture using an unfinished wooden shelf. My parents are very environmentally aware and taught me to reuse and recycle. As I was thinking about this project, a picture of the traditional American home—a white house with a picket fence and a perfect lawn—came into my head. I thought it would be neat to create a house like this and place it on a heap of trash to get people to think about how garbage affects the environment.

Why did you choose the materials you used in your work?
I picked cups, bottles, and plastic wrappers because that is the trash you see on the ground. I mixed them with natural things, like pine branches, and sprinkled everything with a layer of dirt to add texture. The dirt also shows how permanent this filth, which doesn’t decompose, becomes in our lives.

How did you create your sculpture?
I gathered trash and hot-glued it together. Then I used spray adhesive to attach dirt to the trash. Next, my teacher cut wood pieces for the house; I painted them, glued them together, and added two pieces of shingled siding for the roof. Finally, I used wood glue to attach the house.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists like yourself?
If your passion is art, don’t worry about how you’ll make a living at it as a career. Go to art school, put yourself out there, and you’ll find a job that will fulfill your need to create.

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Art. For more from Art, click here.

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