Piles of worn clothing items arranged in a vivid spectrum of color carefully settle along the walls of the Nicholas & Lee Begovich Gallery at CSUF, resembling the rich sedimentary layers of Earth. The striking display of discarded belongings is intended to unearth the harsh realities that lie buried beneath landscapes.
In an art installation titled, “Reclaiming Landscapes” artist Jarod Charzewski uses 6,000 pounds of donated Goodwill clothing, 4,000 pounds of electronic wires and 500 pounds of bike tires and tubes from Jax Bicycle Centers to create a visual embodiment of waste in American consumer culture.
Charzewski, who has been creating art installations for the past 10 years, said he wanted to emulate the unique environmental elements that make up Southern California. Using the imagery of snowcapped mountains and recent catastrophic wildfires and mudslides as palettes, Charzewski integrated their colors to dramatically recreate the landscape.
“I was always thinking about this torn Earth and these colliding pieces of Earth. I was very moved by a lot of the imagery of the mudslides,” Charzewski said.
The main inspiration behind Charzewski’s installation stems from his childhood growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, where he said a park near his house was built above a landfill.
“I went to that park all the time. I only found out years later that it used to be a landfill, and I thought immediately of everyone’s stuff under my feet as I walked. It mesmerized me as a child, and it was something that I hung onto for a long time,” Charzewski said.
With the help of 150 volunteers and about 500 hours, the installation process took three weeks to complete. Curators and CSUF graduates, Jennifer Minasian
and Danielle Clark, organized the exhibition as part of their exhibition design capstone project, a process that took two years.
“When you walk into the gallery, you will be engaged with objects that are transformed, objects that are thrown away and transformed into something beautiful. It also helps people think about their own consumption patterns,” Minasian said.
Clark and Minasian both emphasized the importance of sustainable consumption practices. With Charzewski’s contemporary art installation, they were able to illuminate the harmful effects of spending habits that take a toll on the environment, as well as the exploitation of workers in the clothing industry.
“Eighty billion pieces of clothing are produced every year as it relates to fast fashion. Fast fashion is not only an environmental crisis, I believe it is a human rights crisis,” Clark said.
Fast fashion is a term coined to describe clothes that are made to be worn only a few times.
The zero-waste opening reception included a booth where visitors were encouraged to trade or simply take any available clothing items they wished. Also, Goodwill of Orange County had an informational booth that advocated for alternative shopping methods.
Emilie Burns, a junior at CSUF who is majoring in anthropology and English, was one of the volunteers who heard about the exhibit through her professor as part of an environmental
project to get involved on campus.
“It really was (all about) community and interaction. It wasn’t like ‘I’m the artist and you’re the helper.’ It was really special and made me think I need to have three majors,” Burns said. “I take a lot of pride in this in my own little way.”
With themes of consumerism and sustainability, the installation offers an engaging, yet unsettling look into a landscape molded by its disposable contents. Visitors can walk through this transformed space and find hidden items buried beneath the layers of clothing while reflecting on the strangely familiar nature of the display.
“There’s this connection I think we have to clothing that is the gateway for peace. When you walk through the gallery, you can get that,” Charzewski said.
“Reclaiming Landscapes” will be open to the public for free at the Nicholas & Lee Begovich Gallery until May 17, from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Monday through Thursday.