Fine Arts

Q&A: Sculptor to promote environmental awareness

Many Texans can recognize the “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign — a well-known anti-littering initiative depicting a short, bold statement on patriotic-colored cans and signs to battle a statewide problem of highway littering. While the image is well-recognized and the message is clear, littering remains a prevalent problem in the state as well as across the nation.

School of Art alumnus Jeremy Underwood feels passionately about preserving the environment. Underwood is leaving his mark on the world by using litter to create eye-catching sculptures along Texas waterways. The intent of these sculptures is to spawn dialogue about the lasting concerns and effects of litter on our environment. He made sculptures out of the trash that others had left on the beach to call attention to the problem rather than removing it or informing a local organization to clean it up.

The Daily Cougar interviewed Underwood about his art and influence.

The Daily Cougar: What types of art have you created?

Jeremy Underwood: I make use of the discarded refuse that has overwhelmed the natural landscape and build large-scale sculptures out of the debris collected.

TDC: What was the inspiration behind these unique pieces of art?

JU: While exploring our local waterways, I stumbled upon a beach that lay in a degraded state. Garbage littered the shoreline from end to end, a pungent smell filled the air and warning signs of the polluted water stood as testament to its degraded state. The beautiful open space had become a dumping ground for litter. I feel something has to be done to bring attention to this beach.

TDC: What effects do you think your art has on people who see it?

JU: My art draws attention to the problems that exist in our own backyard. Environmental art carries great potential to engage people in a cause that is so easily overlooked. Individuals can be profoundly impacted through the interaction with these sculptures and the sight of the overwhelming quantity of debris collected from our local waterways.

TDC: How is your art different from other anti-littering campaigns, like “Don’t Mess with Texas” or “Keep America Beautiful”?

JU: An encounter with such an object earns a moment with people, unlike the “No Littering” signs that already dot our landscape, opening up space for greater dialogue. My idea was to use something as unexpected as trash as a catalyst for greater understanding of the environmental damage happening both locally and globally.

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