Dispatch: Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?

Story byTom Judd

GRID asked local artist Tom Judd, whose show “The World is Flat” is on exhibit in Reno, Nevada’s Stremmel Gallery May 19 through June 19, to talk about his work incorporating found and reused material.

"The world is flat” is a large map of the world I made of found cardboard. It was originally created for the Chestnut Hill Arts Initiative and exhibited in an abandoned car dealership window as part of a series of installations in public venues. Painted with acrylic, charcoal and pencil, it feels to me more like a found artifact than a painting, with all the characteristics and exuberance of a high school geography project. Picasso said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist and grow up.” Perhaps this is my attempt at channeling my child artist.

I find cardboard fascinating; fortunately, most of it is recycled. You could say it is a material relegated to permanent utilitarian status. In many respects, it represents our throw-away culture, as it is used primarily to ship objects from one point to another. It is the modern-day vessel for the transporting of both the precious and practical. I am interested in the transformation of an object by shifting the context in which it is used.

I hope to engage the viewer in conversation about our culture’s obsessive quest to turn our planet into a giant marketplace. Looking at this map, one can only imagine where these flattened boxes have been: from factories to trucks to container ships to trucks again, then stacked in massive bales and recycled. To a visitor from another planet, it might seem like a strange way of using our precious resources.

I hope my map points to the absurdity and ever-burgeoning impact of our global markets on our environment, our lifestyles and emotional well-being. We are dependent on these boxes to deliver us to our next plateau of dissatisfaction. It points to a cycle of waste and mindless consumption which leaves us with a pile of cardboard, always wanting more.

One of my inspirations was Vic Muniz, whose latest project, the film Wasteland,  chronicles the life of trash pickers in his home town of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Using material from the landfill, Muniz creates giant portraits, then photographs them. It is in this spirit that I would like my map to be viewed, to empower people to be present to the reality of our actions and perhaps the opportunity to do something about it. 

For more on Tom Judd, visit tomjuddart.com.