‘The best show we’ve ever put together’: BWAC welcomes spring with four new exhibitions

BWAC recycle art pece
‘Is This Enough’ by Judith Eloise Hooper features in “Recycle,” a national juried exhibition at BWAC.
Photo courtesy of Judith Eloise Hooper/BWAC

Artwork from hundreds of creatives from around the country are now on display in Red Hook at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists’ Coalition’s new spring show — and organizers say the exhibitions will blow visitors away like never before. 

“Cohesively, it’s the best show we’ve ever put together,” said BWAC President Alicia Degener. “All four shows are really, really strong. We’re super proud.” 

The show features four new exhibitions exploring different themes. The main event, titled “Recycle,” shows off work created from discarded materials saved and repurposed by artists, and lives in the organization’s sprawling ground floor gallery. 

Old metal, paper, beads, and many tossed-out plastic bottles have been picked up, painted, cut, and arranged into sculptures and wall hangings on BWAC’s ground floor gallery — showing that artists, too, must be part of the movement to “reduce, reuse, recycle,” and that something new and beautiful can be created out of something previously deemed useless.

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Artists used tossed-out bottles, scraps of materials, and more to create their works — like Lisa Bagwell’s plastic piece, “Cake.” Photo courtesy of Lisa Bagwell/BWAC

“Recycle” is a national juried exhibition, as artists from all over the U.S. submit their work to a judge — in this case, John Cloud Kaiser of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, who selected the best-of-the-best to be shown. 

More than 700 would-be Picassos submitted their pieces this year, and just over 100 made it to the Red Hook spring event, according to Degener.

“It’s just full of wonderful, amazing, surprising things,” Degener said. “A lot of plastic bottles, garbage bags, all kinds of really mundane things you’d find in the trash just redone to be beautiful art.” 

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Brian Brenno’s piece “Yellow Cab,” a mixed-media piece constructed with discarded materials. Photo courtesy of Brian Brenno/BWAC

Exhibiting artist Wing Kong creates her multimedia murals using entirely trash and other items left behind in city parks — often inviting community members to help assemble her pieces.

There’s also “Beyond Mud, Ceramics in 2023,” another national juried show — this one inspired by the return of the local Brooklyn Ceramic Arts Tour, which has been on hiatus since the start of the pandemic. 

Judged by Talia Shiroma of the Brooklyn Museum and curated by Sandra Forrest, “Beyond Mud” is, as the name suggests, composed entirely of ceramic goods — functional items like vases and flatware, as well as more interpretive sculptures and decor. 

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“Tempest” by Brian Silvis, part of the “Beyond Mud” ceramics exhibition. Photo courtesy of Brian Silvis/BWAC

Accompanying “Beyond Mud” is “Fired Up!”, another ceramics-only show featuring the work of BWAC’s member artists. 

“We literally have like, every piece on a pedestal,” Degener said. “We went really big with sculpture for our opening spring shows.” 

The fourth exhibit is the literally-named “What’s New,” which came to be after Degener emailed BWAC’s member artists asking what they were working on as they prepared for the spring exhibition.

Every single piece in “What’s New” has never been seen or exhibited before, and even features something brand-new for BWAC: an artist-in-residence.

Member Jonathan Fischer, a collage artist, will be spending his weekends actively creating art in the BWAC gallery so viewers can watch his process and maybe even ask some questions about his work. 

BWAC terra cotta fields
Accompanying “Beyond Mud” is “Fired Up!” an exhibition of BWAC members’ ceramic art, including “Terra Cotta Fields” by Judith Eloise Hooper. Photo courtesy of Judith Eloise Hooper/BWAC

“He finds stuff all over the place … and refashions them into beautiful collages,” Degener said. “It’s great having him there because he talks to people about BWAC, and about his process. It’s exciting to see an actual artist in their studio, and so we made it part of the gallery.” 

The spring exhibition – on display on weekends through June 18 — is a point of pride for BWAC, which has been slowly returning to normal since the pandemic. 

The organization is so happy with the show that they’re planning to capture it with a 3-D photography technique called Matterport and put it on their website so people who couldn’t come see it in person can enjoy it, Degener said. 

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Adriana Baker’s “Dog Park With Falling Figures,” part of “What’s New” at BWAC.Photo courtesy of Adriana Baker/BWAC

“We really feel like we’re back,” she said. “We have been back since we could be back with COVID, but a lot of our members weren’t back, we have a lot of older members. We really feel like we’re very strong right now, as far as our membership.” 

The 25,000-square-foot gallery space is like a “mini-museum,” Degener said, and with the weather warming up, she encouraged local art enthusiasts to make a whole day out of the visit — enjoy the art, walk by the water, grab some key lime pie

The BWAC spring exhibition is on display Saturdays and Sundays, 1-6 p.m., through Sunday, June 18.