“I have been trying to make a total encyclopedic vision that has no parameters and no end. My work is marked by events and is a mirror of the mind that is building and falling apart, having a logic but close to chaos, refusing to stay still for the camera, and giving one a sense of heaven and hell simultaneously.
It is an impossible place, but you can visit and smile and know that it exists somewhere. Now you know that place is in Philadelphia, and you knew it all along, didn’t you?”
– Isaiah Zagar
Try to think back on all of the things that you have carelessly tossed over your shoulder into the trashcan just today or even in the past week. Maybe you can remember throwing out a button that popped off your sweater, a broken mirror that smashed during your move back to campus after break, a shoelace that seemed to have lost its pair, or maybe even an empty bottle of wine or beer… not that any of you would be in possession of any bottles besides water bottles am I right? 🙂 I’m sure there are hundreds of other things that got the boot of rejection into the deep dark depths of the bottom of the trashcan without a single thought. Americans each and every day mindlessly throw away enough garbage to fill up 63,000 garbage trucks, which, if lined up for a year, would stretch halfway to the moon!! It’s nothing important it’s just trash. Right?
Well, to Isiah Zagar, mosaic artist, visionary, but most importantly dumpster diver, trash is the sole provider for his passion as well as career as a mosaic artist. In 1994, Zagar, after years of frustration that his work did not get selected to be shown in any museums, decided to instead create art in public places throughout Philadelphia in order for the entirety of the public to be inspired. In a vacant lot in the middle of South Street is where the magic began. After building walls, tunnels, stairs, and small caves throughout the 3,000 square foot space, this inspired mosaic mural artist took to the streets within the community in the search of little treasures, beautiful aspects of art, colorful pieces of glistening glass, or what some of us might call trash.
After about fourteen years of finding the potential in each and every scrap, Isaiah Zagar finished piecing together the vibrant, thought-provoking mosaic creation that is now named Philadelphia’s Magic Garden.
Over this past winter break, when I told my friends I hadn’t ever been, they were shocked so we hopped on the trolley and were there the next day. I quickly learned that the mural exhibition was made from trash—entirely unwanted rubbish. Being an artist myself, I never would have imagined even attempting to make an art piece out of something as unattractive as things found in a smelly dumpster.
How can a garden be filled with trash? That doesn’t exactly sound like something that would be beautiful… but boy was I ever wrong. As I swung open the doors to the outdoor wonderland I had no idea what to expect. I had a connotation with trash that consisted of smelly piles of food scraps and dirty diapers; that is what my eyes saw and my mind thought when they looked at a pile of trash. Yet when I walked through that door and into the extravagant twinkling display that was so called “trash”, I did not see trash as I had once seen it before. As I ran my hand over the pieces of torn up dolls, recycled bicycle tires, and bits of colorful broken glass, I was not running my hand over undesirable junk as one perspective might see it; I was running my hands over the intricate components that pieced together this massive masterpiece.
My eyes were opened to the possibilities of beauty within unexpected forms of art.
Filled with different snippets of poetry, meaningful quotes, references to current events, and worldly cultural experiences, this magical world was overwhelmingly beautiful and deeply meaningful. It had heart. It had soul. It was art. It was trash. Yet, it is all about perspective. When I walked into Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens I instantly saw trash with fresh eyes. Each and every piece of broken teacup and cracked record were all key contributors to the vibrant colors and characters encompassed within the Magic Gardens. In order to feel the true magic that is possible at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens all you have to do is open your mind to the beauty of art within the unexpected.
Artists all over are crazy about this new medium of creating beautiful pieces of artwork from ordinary trash. Check it out!