Can You Believe This Isn’t Trash But Expertly Painted Pieces of Wood?

I wouldn’t blame you if you thought these were just simple photos of discarded trash. I was fooled as well, until I actually read the story behind them. In reality, these are pieces of wood expertly painted by super-talented Kentucky artist Tom Pfannerstill. From crushed Starbucks coffee cups to crumpled Goldfish cracker packages, he is able to create perfect replicas of all sorts of garbage he finds on the streets.

Tom calls the series ‘From the Street’; he starts off by choosing a real piece of trash and traces the outline of the object onto a flat piece of wood. Once his wooden canvas is ready, he fills it in with acrylic paints, in painstaking detail. The two-dimensional painting soon comes to life, looking exactly like a piece of trash it was modeled after.


To create these perfect illusions, Tom uses the ‘trompe l’oeil’ painting technique, which allows him to make a flat painting look like a three-dimensional object. Using only paint, he manages to depict the myriad of folds and creases of crumpled paper, crushed cans and flattened boxes in mind-blowing detail. So when you look at an image of a battered Budweiser can, it’s actually just a smooth piece of wood that Tom’s painted on.


Tom thinks trash is worth replicating, because while the packages are mass produced, each piece of trash is uniquely changed by the time it reaches him. “Mechanical geometric precision is altered by organic twists, bends and folds,” he explained. “The sparkling clean surfaces are smudged and marked by everyday dirt, grit and grime. No two objects have exactly the same journey.”


Because of their unique journey, Tom points out that each of these products may become an archaeological artifact in the future. “As time inevitably marches on and everything, trash included continues to change, my little pieces ‘from the street’ will become increasingly ‘of a time’. As the popularity of products ebb and flow and certain products disappear altogether as wants, needs and lifestyles change, the will become increasingly esoteric.”


Tom wants his paintings to serve as memorials – he makes notes on the back of each one of them about where and when he found the original object. “These objects have a life span so to speak (if not an actual one, at least a metaphoric one), from their production through their usefulness to their ultimate disposal,” he said.


“As such, I see them as ‘memento mori’, reminders of mortality and the corresponding corollary ‘carpe diem’. They are subtle reminders of the temporal nature of all things.” Who knew you could think so deeply about trash!





Photos: Tom Pfannerstill

via Monde Mosaic

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