Diary Forms: Take Out Your Trash

Over the past semester(Spring 2023), I began to collect as many items from the trash I produce as I could salvage, until I was able to construct this giant pile of it. Rising out of it is a snake, made from dryer duct, party supplies, and a lot of gems and glitter, “shedding its skin.”

Beginning the semester, I had been learning to describe my emotions using art–through writing, drawing, and the collection of objects. I had a spare bedroom in my Bronx apartment, which I’d been using as an art studio. Scattered around the room were discarded objects from my life, which I’ve been calling “human artifacts,” that I’d been grouping together along with drawings I’d made to express my feelings, all arranged by what I associate them with visually. The idea for this project was originally that it would be a 2D sort of mind map of all of these things attached to one another. I was planning to find a way for it to depict as many parts of who I am as possible–what I care about, who I love, what I’ve been through, what makes me upset, and how those all connect. But as I assembled the items, constructing the parts of them that were meant to depict some very sad and nasty parts of my life and mind, those began to feel like things that I did not want to depict so directly to others. Not because I didn’t want anyone to know about it, but because those things are sad, and the effect that depicting them for what they are would have on my audience would, in my mind, be sadness. And I don’t want that–just because I have been through hard experiences doesn’t mean I want to share them by making other people feel those things too–if anything, as a result of what I’ve been through, I want as many people as possible to feel something positive because the world doesn’t need any more negativity than it already has. A fact that I have always liked to think about in a more metaphorical sense is that snakes shed their skin to get rid of whatever they’re carrying that they no longer need. And then one day the idea hit me to depict that with what had by then become piles and piles of trash hanging around my house–a snake shedding it’s “skin,” its trash, leaving the past behind it instead of bringing it into new situations where it does not belong. The piece would tell a story, on one side showing the snake breaking out of a yucky pile of trash, and on the other side of this transformation showing all the beauty and power that came out of its freedom.

Once I’d created the base, with the first element of transformation(a plain black background at the beginning and pops of color on one side), my next mission was to get the snake to stand up, rising up proudly out if its mass of trash. I gave my snake its exterior by painting it green, towards the trash side of the project adding a mucky, dark-greenish color, and adding patches of gold glitter towards the snake’s head. To stand it up, I took three long, stick-like planks of wood, which I painted black of exponentially increasing sizes, and I used an excessive amount of gorilla glue and duct tape to get them to stay like that, using a cinder block to hold the tallest one up as a final form of support. They did not come out looking as clean as I had intended, but I felt it gave a sense of resilience to the rising of the snake, my professor referred to it as a “determination to remain standing.” I mainly used glue to attach the snake’s body to the poles, save the two screws that I used to attach the very top. I made the trash pile by gluing and taping all of my trash into the shape of the pile that I wanted, using the mucky green color again, this time mixed with Elmer’s glue, along with bubble wrap and plastic grocery bags, to create the look of skin being shed. The head was made out of three origami snake heads glued to one another to look like they are almost coming out of one another. I used cardstock paper, and, for the bigger sized, I continued taping more and more cardstock pieces together and then folding them, creating three different sizes of snake heads inside of each other. I painted them with glue and coated them with glitter. I made the eyes out of little gems I got from the craft store glued together, and decorated the rest of the snake head side with other gems and more glitter. Finally, I glued on a party favor which I covered in shiny confetti as the tongue.

To me, this piece represents transformation. I see it as definitely being able to have multiple meanings, getting rid of unneeded trash physically, and, metaphorically, you could really say that it also represents healing from past trauma. And how what we leave in the past and the places we come from do not have to define us, that we should get rid of all we don’t need at leave it behind so that we can get all cleaned of and be free from it and sparkle:)

Author: Mia Grasso