, Salem, MA


February 28, 2013

The art of leftovers

Pingree teacher finds inspiration in what others throw away

HAMILTON — What kind of art can you make with leftover paint, after you’ve finished making art?

It’s a question that poses itself to Rich Erickson of Ipswich, who has taught art at Pingree School for more than 20 years, in spoonfuls of acrylic paint that are left on students’ palettes at the end of every day.

“It dries fast,” Erickson said. “It sets up like Elmer’s glue, and you can’t save it.”

So about 31/2 years ago, Erickson, who has previously exhibited his work in New York; Marfa, Texas; and Zumi’s in Ipswich, started playing around with the leftover paint.

The creative experiments he conducted can be seen in an exhibit, “There is art in throwing away paint,” which is on display at the school’s Bertolon Family Gallery until April 5.

The show’s title can be read in several ways, raising serious questions while also fooling around, and that’s also how his artworks operate.

“I started putting the leftover paint in small, empty cardboard boxes,” Erickson said. “I’d throw it, splash it.”

After the various colors dried inside the box, he painted over them with black.

“Then I’d fill the box with expandable foam, so the inside was solid,” Erickson said. “Then I’d soak the box in water for three or four days. That softens the cardboard, so I could remove the box.”

He wouldn’t know what he had until the cardboard was pulled away, but he liked what he found often enough that he has filled half the exhibit with these pieces.

“I got a whole bunch of these three-dimensional rectangles, which are on a black surround, that are basically the empty space of a box,” Erickson said. “It was the idea of filling an empty box with paint, making a negative-space box.”

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