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Humberthropocene exhibit shows scale and impact of campus garbage

Beatriz Balderrama Baleeiro, A&E Reporter

For Anya Mielniczek, garbage has always been a source of artistic inspiration.

“I’ve always been interested in waste materials and recycling or up-cycling stuff,” the Toronto artist said.

Mielniczek said she included collages made of refuse in her 2012 graduating thesis work at Queen’s University, here. Her works are now Humber’s latest art exhibit, made of campus waste that’s been recycled into colourful circular panels.

Her works — on display at the Humber Galleries in the Learning Resource Centre at North campus — are catching the eyes of every student who walks by, whether rushing to get to class or simply grabbing a coffee.

The mural assemblage created by environmental artist Mielniczek was with the collaboration of Humber’s community and is a partnership with the Humber Office of Sustainability and Humber Galleries.

The installation was named Humberthropocene by Kyla Ross, coordinator at Humber Centre for Creative Business Innovation. She picked the title after seeing the Anthropocene show at the AGO and it seemed like a perfect fit.

The Humber Galleries website said the name is a combination of Humber and Anthropocene, which is defined as the current geological age where humans have been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. The round canvases illustrate the Earth and people’s circles of life, by inspiring the community to contemplate on how pollution permeates everywhere, Mielniczek said.

“I like it how (Mielniczek) put bits and pieces together,” Desiree Fontana, Media Foundations student, who was admiring the murals, said. “It’s little parts that of a small whole that turn into a big one. It’s not just about the bigger picture, but the details really make a lot of it.

“I enjoyed seeing the uniqueness in each one, they are very different but with similar concepts,” she said.

Mielniczek said the pieces’ creative process varied between a couple of hours to a day or two.

It all depended on the style in which the waste was outlined, she said. Pieces that used smaller components and had a very orderly feel to them had a tendency to take longer, whereas pieces that used one material would take less time to create, Mielniczek said.

She said Humberthropocene raises awareness about human waste production and habits.

“It’s about making the connection between our everyday consumer goods and at what scale they’re being sent to landfill and ultimately what impact this has on our natural environment,” Mielniczek said. “It’s also about garbage becoming something beautiful, something that can be re-purposed and given another life, for the viewer to leave inspired and see their waste differently — and do differently with it.”

Outer circles in her works painted in red represent “heat and the urgent climate crisis facing our planet,” she said.

Fontana said the artworks tell a story.

“For me, it’s very symbolic, and I think that is the kind of work that people need to see and realize that the material changes with the artwork,” she said.

Humberthropocene counted on the community’s help to happen. The Office of Sustainability and the Humber Galleries asked staff, students and faculty to bring trash that originated on campus.

“Throwing away garbage doesn’t exist,” Mielniczek said. “We live in a moment in time where there is infinite potential to reconsider our convenience and our unsustainable habits.

“This piece is about considering the everyday choices we are accountable for making this world a habitable place for generations to come,” she said.

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