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UP #102: Creating Beauty Out of Trash with Martin Smyczek

Everywhere we look, we see trash. It’s ugly, ubiquitous, and overwhelming. We overuse, abuse, and discard our world without a care, and our consumptive ways are hurting the Earth in every possible way. The problem is so immense that it’s easy to fall into the pit of despair.

But there’s a pinprick of light shining in an endless sea of garbage. Martin Smyzcek is a reuse artist who utilizes used, discarded, and un-recyclable items normally considered “trash”. In his work, trash is the medium for artistic expression. Martin transforms ugliness into beauty by highlighting the idea that nothing created should be wasted or discarded after use. As he states on his website, “Putting something in a bag, a can, or a hole in the ground, and walking away, is not an answer. It simply creates a whole new set of problems.” By reusing what others unconsciously discard, he is reframing trash.

Martin also inspires us to live fully and creatively right now. His battle with advanced glaucoma and the threat of immanent blindness, is one of his main driving forces. The disease has been with him since birth and there is no cure. As he writes on his website, “For me, being an artist and observing my progressing vision loss is frightening, and sometimes it gets the best of me. However, the drive it instills into me to push farther, go faster, be better — not just in art, but in everyday life — and create, create, create… is powerful.

This week we chat about:

  • What is reuse art?
  • Reframing trash.
  • Critical thinking skills: want or need?
  • The power of example.
  • Reclaiming simplicity.
  • How our collective consumption is like a widespread mental illness.
  • We don’t need to change the world, we need to change ourselves to inspire others.
  • How our culture is set up for consumption and destruction, not for life.
  • Keep moving in the direction of “better”.
  • Living with glaucoma.

Ultimately, Martin’s work is about inspiring us to re-think how we live, use, and reuse; and through his art and the power of example, he’s doing just that.


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