As a race, most of us are driven by consumerism to one degree or another, this act by its very nature is a driving force for many an economy. Unfortunately, it is also responsible for waste and pollution, the unsavoury byproduct of our need for more, often at lower prices. Artist Troy Dugas is making amends in his own way by creating masterpieces out of recycled packaging, which has its own artistic essence. Troy talked us through his creative process, sustainability and art from the 1970's amongst other topics.
How do you source the materials you use for your art? You certainly have a knack for finding some great raw material?
I’ve always been a scavenger. Going to garage sales, the salvation army, and flea markets was what I did when I was a teenager. I was very much into repurposing clothes at the time. I came across a huge paper bag of thousands of cigar bands at the Chelsea Flea Market in New York about 20 years ago. I experimented with it in paintings and installations at the time, but it wasn’t until 2002 when I moved back to Louisiana that I began making pieces completely out of the material itself. Now, through eBay, I have found many antique dealers who specifically handle this kind of stuff.
What comes first? The raw material or the concept?
It is a battle. Sometimes the materials really “speak” to me and guide my decisions. They give meaning to otherwise meaningless designs. Other times I try to quiet them by painting over them or shredding them, so they are unidentifiable. We have a working relationship.
It’s clear that recycling and sustainability are topics that need more focus that they get, how do you think we can make more people aware of their importance with regards to our ever dwindling resources?
As a teacher, I always feel my first obligation is to be a good example. I’m such a passive person; I don’t usually try to convince anyone of anything. I think small actions go a long way and good work speaks volumes.
You were born in 1970, where they any artists from that era that had a profound influence on you as an artist?
So many different things were happening in the 70's coming out of the 60's including conceptual art, photo-realism, land art, performance art, visual art, and post-minimalism. I’m going to have to go with post-minimalism and say, Eva Hesse. She used similar themes as minimal art like grids and systems, but it was more about the process and the hand-made. Minimal art was industrial and cold.
The scale of some of your pieces is enormous, what is the longest you have ever spent on a project?
I try not to let anything take up more than two months, but I usually have multiple things going on, so there are pieces at different stages of completion.
What led you to choose your favourite media?
It began at a very young age having a grandmother who was an obsessive crafter. She could transform bubble gum wrappers into magical chalices with a few folds and twists. That simple act opened something up in my mind that I can’t seem to shut off. I made this video in 2001.
Is there packaging from a particular era that you are drawn to?
There is a local company called Evangeline Maid Bread that is a major part of my local community. I grew up with it, my grandfather worked for them in the 40’s or 50’s, and the plant is still there operating just blocks away from where I live now. I was fortunate enough to have someone see my work in a show, find a huge roll of vintage Evangeline Maid Bread wrappers (probably from the 70's) in a dumpster, and leave it at my doorstep. There is so much material; I could wrap a large building with it.
What are you trying to communicate through your work?
It had taken a very long time before I understood that I was trying to communicate anything at all. I just made things out of a really strong drive to do so. Now that I’ve reached people and have been showing with galleries, I think more about an audience. When I’m making something, I feel like it’s for someone very specific who is out there waiting to connect to it. Each piece has an intention. That intention develops into an image. That image emerges through a process. That process describes a practice.
Tell us about your pets? They certainly seem to have a prominent role in your life?
There are a lot of animals in my life. My partner is a Master Gardner and an all around nature lover who raises birds in five aviaries in our backyard under a canopy of tropical plants, and oak and pecan trees. There are over 100 birds (currently Bourque parakeets and finches) and probably more now that it is spring. Beastie is a great, big, black cat that comes in and out for dining. Mr Fox is a new foster, mixed breed dog who Ralph has fallen in love with, and I’m sure will become a permanent resident. Mabel and Belzie are Chihuahuas who keep us laughing, and one of them lets me hold her like a baby. The other one is jealous beyond belief. At the beginning of 2016, we lost our dearest Dachshund Sally and at the end of 2016, our tiniest Chihuahua, never weighing over a pound and half her entire 14 years of life, passed away.
We would like to thank Troy for taking the time out to answer our questions. This interview first appeared in the March 2017 issue of CreativPaper Magazine.