Turning Trash to Treasure: 16 Styrofoam Sculptures

Like a plague, it’s always there: present in virtually every package we receive, not to mention every landfill known to man, where it will remain for hundreds if not thousands of years. But though styrofoam is designed to be disposable, some artists are flouting that convention and using it as an unexpectedly versatile medium in projects ranging from towering robots to entire retail stores. These 16 styrofoam art projects by 9 artists recycle the ubiquitous white foam into objects that transcend the transience of the material.

Michael Salter’s Styrofoam Car & Robots

(images via: michaelsalter.com)

A formula 1 car, a series of towering white robots surrounded by their miniatures – what can’t Michael Salter, a professor of digital arts at the University of Oregon, make out of styrofoam? Salter recycles used styrofoam packaging to craft his creations, and often uses the native form to create shapes rather than carving.

Couch & Lamps by Kwangho Lee

(image via: geekologie)

The first thing you may be tempted to ask upon viewing this all-styrofoam couch by Kwangho Lee is, ‘Why?” But, really, why not? It may not be the softest or best-looking material around, but heck, at least you’d float if your house ever flooded. Of course, this piece isn’t actually meant for use in the home – it’s art, and was part of a series called ‘Lifelike Design’. Lee also created sculptural lamp shades that resemble giant gobs of white paint.

Tara Donovan’s Cup Ceiling

(image via: mocoloco)

Installation artist Tara Donovan finds inspiration in the most mundane of materials, from toothpicks and drinking straws to paper plates and styrofoam cups. With the latter, Donovan created an undulating aerial landscape reminiscent of a cloud.

Life-Size Hummer by Andrew Junge

(images via: sfgate)

It’s perhaps the world’s least eco-friendly personal vehicle – rendered, fittingly perhaps, in a decidedly un-green material. Andrew Junge carved this life-sized replica of a Hummer while an artist-in-residence at San Francisco’s garbage dump, where he was able to salvage and repurpose all the styrofoam needed for the sculpture.

“I wish to examine and re-contextualize found objects and materials, to invest them with new life, and to sanctify – or at least acknowledge their presence in the world,” Junge explains in his artist’s statement. “Or perhaps, more accurately, to acknowledge my presence as these materials’ temporary curator, archivist and re-purposer.”

Illuminated Styrofoam Sculpture by Jason Rogenes

(images via: inhabitat)

They’ve cradled stereos, iPads, flat-screen televisions and toasters, and now these styrofoam pieces – which come in practically every shape imaginable – grace the walls of galleries, illuminated in futuristic-looking displays. Artist Jason Rogenes gives these scraps of trash new life with installations that hang from the ceiling like miniature space ships.

Snarkitechture Styrofoam Pop-Up Store

(images via: design boom)

The entire interior of a pop-up Richard Chai store in New York City was crafted from massive blocks of styrofoam by Brooklyn-based design firm Snarkitecture. After spending hours carving texture and niches from the blocks with a heated wire, the team achieved a result that calls to mind an ice hotel. While the styrofoam used wasn’t post-consumer, it was recycled afterwards, returned to the manufacturer and made into rigid-foam insulation panels.

Mario Brothers Pieta by Kordian Lewandowski

(images via: kordianl)

Princess Peach sorrowfully cradles Mario’s dead body in this parody of Michelangelo’s super-serious Pieta, carved from polystyrene by artist Kordian Lewandowski. The modern material is a fitting contrast to marble for this video-game-based scene.

Recycled Glass and Styrofoam Sculpture by Sungsoo Kim

(images via: sungsookimglass)

Can styrofoam have beauty in its own right, even when it’s not molded or carved to look like something else? Korean sculptor Sungsoo Kim translates the shapes of discarded styrofoam packing materials into colorful glass, giving them an aesthetic value that is only noticeable because of the change in material from something cheap and unwanted to a more ‘valid’ artist’s medium.

“In my work with Styrofoam, I try to find something concealed in it. The explicit purpose of this material is to protect products while they are in transit. As such, this material has a vital role in the economic machine, but ultimately it becomes trash. Its only value is conferred to it by the market value of the product it protects. That value is lost as soon as the product it protects is removed. The depreciation is astronomical from a consumer-commodity standpoint, but I think there is still something valuable in it, that the packaging has value as an object itself. My work of recycling packing Styrofoam is then to seek the ‘value’ which is unseen in its material reality.”

Faux Styrofoam by Fabio Viale

(images via: fabio viale)

Some artists working in styrofoam try to make their creations look as if they’re carved of marble, but sculptor Fabio Viale has the opposite intent. His ‘styrofoam’ sculptures actually are made of marble, given a pearly texture that makes it appear much softer than it really is.

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