Redemption Value

You’d never think of plastic bottles as the basis for an art exhibition, would you? Water bottles, bleach bottles, soda bottles—all those bottles you know you ought to put into the recycling (and perhaps you do). Well, think again.

Redemption Garden: a Lakeside Artists Open Studio Collaboration, now on view at the SMUD Gallery in Sacramento, is a fascinating and surprising flower garden made of old plastic bottles, painted and then split open and recombined to make flowers. Lots of flowers. About 2,000 flowers. The Open Studio “planted” their flowers on panels grouped by color, and the result is a rainbow effect from red and orange to purple.

Redemption Garden by Open Studio Artists at Lakeside
Redemption Garden panels at the SMUD Gallery in Sacramento. Photographed by permission, by Stephanie Benedict

And it’s surprisingly delightful. I say “surprisingly” because plastic is not my favorite medium—but this exhibition really is a treat. The garden panels are hung in series for the viewer to stroll by, but I wanted to immerse myself in the colors. The panels are not monochromes, but very sophisticated and subtle shadings of color, accented with complements or analogous colors.

And the SMUD Gallery’s open, airy space is the perfect venue for this collaborative art exhibition. It’s actually the lobby of the SMUD customer service center, a venue used for display of public art.

The artists are members of a group called Open Studio: “a community of artists of all types and ages who create together,” as they say on their blog. The work was originally part of an Easter display at a local church, and has been enhanced and enlarged for the new space. At the opening reception, they were encouraging visitors to make their own flowers. While yours truly did not, it was fun to watch others try.

Raw Materials for the Redemption Garden
Painted plastic bottles to turn into flowers. Photo by Stephanie Benedict
An example flower made from painted plastic bottles
An example flower made from old plastic bottles. Photo by Stephanie Benedict

Redemption Garden: a Lakeside Artists Open Studio Collaboration runs through July 31, 2012, at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, 6301 S Street, Sacramento. Gallery hours are Monday–F, 8:00–5:00. The SMUD Art Gallery is a partnership between SMUD and the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission.

I may never look at a plastic bottle the same way again! What about you?