Emily LaRoche Turns Local Trash Into Treasure

Myrea Mora, Editor-in-Chief

Seattle University has struggled with recycling for some time now, most recently coming to a head concerning whether or not all of the university’s waste will go to the landfill. This has resulted in a push on campus to be aware of where students and faculty are throwing their waste away.

Emily LaRoche, a senior environmental studies and photography major, has introduced an art piece that is created from castaway items she found in the streets of Seattle and campus. After seeing potential from all the trash scattered throughout the city, she became inspired and acted on it.

“The goal is to be aware of disposal and know that when you throw things away, they are not gone,” said LaRoche.

The exhibit opened on Feb. 1 and will remain open until Mar. 29. The sculpture titled “Lost and Found” is located on the first floor of Lemieux Library.

LaRoche began the sculpture as part of an independent study that she took on to combine her artistic talent with her passion for the environment.

“This work is both a critique of consumerism and a plea toward a more sustainable future,” reads the sign placed at Emily LaRoche’s sculpture.

Claire Garoutte, an assistant professor and the director of photography at Seattle U, is LaRoche’s advisor and has been her professor various times. She has known LaRoche since her first year at Seattle U.

Garoutte agreed that LaRoche would benefit from exploring how her environmental studies interests and artistic side could come together.

“It’s a meaningful message that is effectively delivered and it’s wonderful when students can connect in meaningful ways that involve interdisciplinary callings,” Garoutte said. “I think that’s what critical thinking is all about.”

Once LaRoche submitted her independent study proposal, and listed professor Wynne Greenwood as her advisor for the piece, she began to sketch the sculpture and started to weave the bags she collected from the streets.

Fourth-year Environmental Studies and Photography major, Emily LaRoche, built this sculpture out of littered materials to promote sustainability and raise awareness of a person’s carbon footprint.

The sculpture itself resembles a body and is made primarily of random, indistinguishable pieces she found throughout the Seattle streets. The body is composed of two umbrellas— one for a leg and one for the body. The top of the sculpture is the top of the umbrella and other random pieces: shoes, a glove, a Pennzoil container, wood, rope, and scraps of metal.

LaRoche was later emailed and asked if she would like to have the art on display at the library on campus. LaRoche was pleasantly surprised as this was her introduction to the art of sculpture, and she learned many things while creating the piece that she had not previously known about the style.

LaRoche noted that she had to change the orientation and readjust the layout of the trash many times to get it to stand. She began by giving the sculpture a heavy top and had the legs bent, but after more contemplation she adjusted and straightened the leg.

Seattle U Green Team President Jessie Dirks, a senior environmental study major and friend of LaRoche, attended the original exhibition and was proud of the message LaRoche portrayed with her piece.

“I think the main function of this type of art is to bring awareness to issues around waste and consumption and I think it is a powerful way to move people towards action and reflect on their own consumerism.”

Another benefit creating art out of trash found all over the city is that the materials are free, which makes the project cost-friendly and eco-friendly.

LaRoche stated that she is not done with this form of art and has many ideas that she would love to bring to life in the near future. Some of these ideas include experimenting with quilting and fashion.

“I still have a bunch of trash, so I see myself making more pieces and improving by experimenting more with weaving because there are so many plastic bags all over the city that are concerning and alarming to the environment.”

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