Artist turns trash into treasure at BWAC’s spring exhibition ‘Recycle 2023’

recycle 2023 3d artwork
Artist Wing Kong, who creates multimedia murals out of discarded materials, is one of several artists preparing to show their work at BWAC’s newest exhibition, “Recycle 2023.”
Photo courtesy of Wing Kong

The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition in Red Hook is combining art and environmentalism in an upcoming gallery exhibition titled “Recycle 2023.” The exhibit celebrates artists who turn discarded materials into art, and will be open to the public on the weekends from Saturday, May 13 through Sunday, June 18. 

The show features artists from across the country — including Wing Kong, a local artist with a focus on taking discarded materials from city parks and turning them into artwork. Kong has been involved in the field of art and design since her college years and has had a special interest in environmental issues since 2016. 

“I started my own accessory company designing and manufacturing scarves and evening wear when I was a freshman in college,” Kong said. “In 2016, I became a gardening and environmental educator working with children and adults. Our gardening club won many citywide awards for our arts, sustainability efforts and science experiment projects.” 

recycle 2023 reclaimed artwork
Kong’s three-dimensional, multimedia work is made from reclaimed items discarded in local parks. Photo courtesy of Wing Kong

Kong has now found a way to bring art and sustainability together through murals. 

“Currently I am specializing in creating three-dimensional, sculptural art murals by using found items,” said Kong. 

Her artistic process for creating these murals involves going to a park that she has selected, taking pictures, gathering discarded materials in the area, and conversing with park-goers. 

One of the inspirations for my art is to learn what brings people to the park, and how the park brings people closer to nature, wildlife and each other,” said Kong, “Each park possesses a rich, vibrant connection – a spoken and unspoken dialogue – among humans, wildlife, flora and fauna. I liken it to an orchestral score that I, the conductor, must study and master before I can turn this ‘music’ into art.” 

Kong gains her inspiration, intention, and supplies by going to these parks. 

“I love drawing inspiration for my mural based on these wonderful conversations, the photographs I took, and materials I gathered,” said Kong, “By immersing myself in the park, listening to its heartbeat, and learning the rhythm of its unique story, I can create a piece of art that belongs to the community and speaks the language of the park and all of its inhabitants and visitors.” 

But Kong’s artistic process does not end when she leaves the park — her murals take multiple hands to be completed.

“Once the park has been selected and I have immersed myself in it, I will partially complete my sculptural mural using materials and inspiration gained from the park, its wildlife, natural habitat and visitors,” said Kong, “Community members will then join me to complete the artwork at a public event.” 

The purpose of these events goes beyond arts and crafts. Kong uses her method and art to educate communities regarding the ways that waste impacts our environment, wildlife, and humans. 

“This interactive approach empowers the community as co-creators of my mural and inspires discussion about the waste we generate daily and how our actions affect our environment and wildlife,” said Kong, “My work provides an opportunity for viewers to see different perspectives and challenge their perceptions and assumptions of environmental issues close to home.” 

Kong uses unconventional items to create beautiful art to tell a story about sustainability that helps her viewers to see the world in a new way. 

“My work focuses on connecting people with nature and our environment. It is my goal and my honor to have the opportunity to inspire people through my art,” said Kong, “We need more people to continue protecting and caring for our community.” 

recycle 2023 multimedia piece
Kong hopes her pieces inspire and educate people about the environment and the importance of caring for their community. Photo courtesy of Wing Kong

The artist was delighted when of her pieces was selected to be exhibited at BWAC.

“I am so honored and thrilled that my mural was selected,” said Kong, “This piece of art mural is incredibly important to me. It is from a true story of a heron that I found at a nearby pond that was entangled by a fishing line and hook. I reached out to the Park’s depot hoping the rehabilitation center could save it but it didn’t survive.” 

Kong is telling her story through this mural which is created entirely of non-recyclable food packages, plastic waste, electronic waste, fishing waste and excess manufacturing materials. 

“Making something beautiful, awe-inspiring, thought-provoking and educational out of common items that people have thrown away is important and rewarding to me,” said Kong, “If seeing and appreciating one of my murals causes one person to think twice before tossing that bottle, can, plastic bag, or fishing line in the woods or on the water, it was worth it.”