Talking trash in the art world

Plastic bags get royal treatment as art in Blue Line exhibit
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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During a recent blustery morning, artist Lisa Young has one thing on her mind: plastic grocery bags.

“Right now, I’m thinking it’s windy outside, there are all of these bags flying around,” Young says.

The 40-year-old Roseville resident has a fixation with plastic bags, which she has found littering city streets and open spaces.

“It bothered me that everywhere I walk, I drive, I go, I see a plastic bag,” she says.

Young turned this interest into a form of recycled art, using bags as her medium of choice for 12 pieces she’ll soon have displayed at the Blue Line Gallery for The Beckoning Outdoors exhibit, which runs Tuesday, Feb. 15 through Saturday, Feb. 26 (the gallery has reduced its viewing hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

This exhibit invites visitors into spring and thoughts of the great outdoors, said Curator Beth Rohlfes. The show will feature outdoor metal and cast concrete sculpture by some of the area’s most collected artists — Vern Peasenell, Lynn Scholl, Steve Harrington and Helen DiCarlo. Sacramento artist Kathy Noonan will display a natural wall sculpture.

Landscape paintings and photographs by award-winning artists James Hirschinger, Imi Lehmbrock-Hirschinger, Victoria Brooks, Tom Laffey and more will be available for purchase. Guest artists from Placer ARC Studio 700 Center for the Arts will also present springtime-themed paintings for sale.

Young’s art may generate interest for its unique style and perspective on the outdoor theme. Most of her plastic bag pieces are accompanied by a short video or photographs documenting the bags she encountered in natural settings.

“Young’s crocheted grocery bags, photographic arrangements and videos offer gentle reminders of our responsibility to the earth and attest to the human ability to find beauty in the most unexpected forms,” Rohlfes says.

This is Young’s first time showing her art publicly. She became involved with the Blue Line Gallery after visiting the facility to see the recent “Transfiguration” installation by friend and fellow artist, Chris Daubert.

But her love of art began long ago when her mother taught her how to crochet and sew when she was 7 years old.

“I never got the hang of knitting, though,” Young says.

She’s passing her skills onto her 6-year-old son Dean, whose artwork hangs around their cozy house near downtown Roseville.

Downstairs, in her studio, hangs a 5-by-7 piece of art that resembles a blanket. The multi-colored piece, called “Plastic Blanket Twin Size,” is made out of about 250 plastic grocery bags given to her by friends.

Young cut the bags into strips, which she crocheted into a blanket. She estimates the piece — which will be in the Blue Line show — took about six months to complete.

“To some extent, it’s the nature of artists to reuse things to create art,” Rohlfes says. “But the consciousness of recycled art and how it’s good for the environment and the culture has been emphasized in the past couple of years.”

But reused art hasn’t always been Young’s forte. The Los Angeles-raised artist earned two bachelor’s degrees, the first in child development. The second was in art history with an emphasis on global modernism, or art from non-European countries.

Among her favorite modern artists, she lists Wilfredo Lam, a painter known for depicting the Afro-Cuban culture, and Amrita Sher-Gil, considered one of the most important women painters in 20th century India. Her favorite contemporary artist is El Anatsui, a sculptor from Africa.

Like Anatsui, Young could be considered a “found-object artist,” using items she happens upon to create original art. She used to draw, paint and make collages but eventually grew eager to try something else, which led her to found art.

One day, Young saw a plastic bag down the street from her house. She took a one-minute video of the bag, grabbed the trash and took it home to clean. She knew she had to make bags her new medium.

“Most of the pieces are from the outdoors,” Young says. “I actually picked them up from the ground.”

The artist says her plastic bag pieces express her obsession with repetition and busywork — she loves to crochet, for instance, finding the craft soothing. The pieces also reflect her dislike of garbage littering the outdoors.

“It’s something important to me,” Young says. “I’m not an activist. I’m just somebody in the community that is saying something about plastic bags in the environment to bring that fact to people’s attention.”

Efforts have been made in California to ban plastic shopping bags, but state lawmakers have so far rejected this ban. Some cities already ban single-use plastic bags, including San Francisco.

Young is excited to be in the Blue Line Gallery and will soon be showing pieces at the Tangent Art Gallery in Sacramento. Her work will also be displayed at the Downtown Roseville Public Library from April to May.

“I’ve been working and working and trying to discover myself,” Young says. “I’m ready to get out there and show my art.”

Sena Christian can be reached at


The Beckoning Outdoors
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, Feb. 15 to Feb. 26. The 3rd Saturday art opening takes place 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19.
Where: Blue Line Gallery, 405 Vernon Street in Roseville
Cost: Free admission, but paintings, photographs and outdoor sculptures for sale