Recycled art comes to the garden

ENCINITAS — The San Diego Botanic Garden is never short on flowers and butterflies. But the newly created recycled sculptures of garden staples add a new dimension to the pristine setting.
The creation of the latest piece of art was made with the help of the community and led by recycle artist Rodney “Rodrigo” McCoubrey. The Leucadia fixture best known for his recycled fish sculptures has worked with thousands of residents throughout the county to create art from garbage.
“The community is part of many of my creations,” McCoubrey said. “There is a large piece on permanent loan from EDCO at the Encinitas library,” he said. “It’s pretty incredible what you can make out of junk.”
McCoubrey said his love of texture and arts and crafts in addition to a desire to find a way to redefine garbage led him into the world of recycled art. “I saw things getting thrown away and thought this would be a cool way to reinvent them and give them a longer shelf life,” he said.
Children and their parents gathered around the painted plywood base shape of a butterfly that spanned approximately 42 inches by 42 inches, eager to decorate its wings with various bottle tops. “I like the shampoo tops because they flip open,” Sydney Platt, 6, said. The first-grade Poway resident was joined by her mother, Susan on Feb. 12. “I didn’t know we were going to be a part of such a fun art project,” she said, adding that the two were out for an excursion at the new Hamilton Children’s garden.
Once complete, the art will be placed within the garden for viewing. “It’s always nice to see something that you helped to create on display,” Shelly Pierce said. Her daughter, Amanda, 8, was busy selecting materials to decorate the butterfly.
“I’m excited to go home and do the same thing on a smaller scale with all of the junk in our house,” Pierce said.
McCoubrey’s ongoing show at the Encinitas Library provides examples of community art created using recycled materials. “Not only do we make something that they (the children) can take home, but they build something that they can exhibit to help with their self-esteem,” he said. “It’s been pretty impressive the kids I’ve been able to work with.”
In fact, with the lack of consistent art classes in many public school districts, McCoubrey said it’s even more important to have access to hands-on art that is easily accessible. “If I can only inspire kids through art to be a part of something big, that would be a success,” he said.
McCoubrey’s folk art differs from refined art he said. “I scour construction sites for plywood, kids bring trash to the workshops, it’s a joint effort,” he said. Old toys, hairbrushes, bottle caps and even street cleaner wheels are transformed into flowers, fish, hearts and anything that the creator can imagine.
As much as McCoubrey would like to see less garbage mucking up the environment, he said he’s not going to be out of a job anytime soon. “As long as there’s human beings, I’m employed. There will always be trash,” he said.
McCoubrey’s authentic take on recycling extends into every facet of his work and life. “I’m committed to what I do,” he said. “I live the recycled life.” His floors are a tapestry of throwaway stone, his headboards are made from recycled fence posts and in every nook and cranny a new creation is made from seemingly useless trash. “I just keep reinventing,” he said.
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