While some artists use bronze, plaster, or marble to construct life-sized sculptures, Fort Wayne artist, Sayaka Ganz, relies on a very different material: discarded plastic. The same plastics that often find their way into landfills or oceans.
Using abandoned plastics like combs, utensils, bowls, and more, Ganz recreates animals in motion, whether birds in flight, fish swimming, or horses galloping. She titles the pieces “reclaimed creations,” drawing attention to global waste that threatens wildlife and evoking a sense of spirit—even in artificial, man-made materials, like plastic. Sayaka Ganz
She defines her work as “3D impressionism,” assembling various pieces of plastic to emphasize movement and bright colors, using her materials like the broad strokes of a paintbrush.
Ganz’s art will feature in Fort Wayne at Artlink from Feb. 22nd to Mar. 22nd in an exhibition show titled: “Mother Sea – Haha naru umi.” Artlink will launch the exhibition on Feb. 22nd with a “zero-waste” event in partnership with the Allen County Department of Environment Management (ACDEM) and a presentation from 8 p.m.-8:30 p.m. about “Moving Toward a Zero-Waste Lifestyle.”
Ganz’s exhibition comes at a significant point in history—at what many organizations have called a “global plastic waste crisis.”
It is estimated that billions of pounds of plastic can be found swirling in up to about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that by 2050, plastic will outweigh all the fish in the sea.
The centerpiece of “Mother Sea – Haha naru umi” is a massive 16-foot-long whale that was largely constructed in Fort Wayne at Tekventure, a local public art and technology laboratory.
Artist Sayaka Ganz poses by "reclaimed creations" sculptures she has made from recycled plastics.
Ganz is excited to showcase the piece in her hometown. In a way, the inspiration for her artwork even predates her time in Fort Wayne, going back to her roots.
Having spent her childhood in Japan, she was taught the belief that everything has a spirit, even forgotten household items. Anytime she sees an item thrown away, she is moved to save it and give it a new purpose. Through her art, she wants to show that all objects—even objects considered mundane and insignificant—still have worth.
“Value can exist in anything you find beautiful,” Ganz says. “You can find value in the cheapest piece of plastic.”
Ganz created a colorful arch from repurposed plastic.
In art school, Ganz discovered her passion for sculptures when she was introduced to welding and metalwork. But when she felt her art was becoming too repetitive, she began to research new materials. Her attention was caught by a plastic yellow chain she often saw in thrift and hardware stores.
Ganz was accustomed to working with chain links in her metalwork, and this yellow plastic chain gave her the inspiration to incorporate more plastic into her art.
Although her work has developed over time, Ganz still puts her talent of welding to use today, creating wire armatures, or frameworks, for her sculptures out of reclaimed aluminum or steel.
Ganz puts her welding skills to work, creating the metal armature for one of her sculptures.
Forming the armature itself usually consists of more than half the entire construction process, Ganz says. Once the framework is complete, she fits various pieces of plastic along it to give each sculpture color, movement, and a sense of spirit.
For Ganz, plastic brings history and personality to her pieces unlike any other materials because of its storied past and current role in the global waste crisis. Ganz's Mikoto sculpture takes flight.
Once plastic is created, it is estimated that it will live 450 years or more in landfills. Ganz hopes her work will build on the global momentum to protect nature and help people realize the full lifecycle of the products they use and create.
“Even the most artificial things, if you follow the roots, come from nature,” Ganz explains. “But we’ve created things that can’t go back to nature easily. We’ve created a dead end.”
By visually reconnecting plastic to nature, she aspires to foster more respect for the environment and how it relates to everything else.
See Ganz’s exhibition in Fort Wayne
Ganz’s art will feature in Fort Wayne at Artlink from Feb. 22nd to Mar. 22nd in an exhibition show titled: “Mother Sea – Haha naru umi.” In honor of her work, Artlink will launch the exhibition on Feb. 22nd with a “zero-waste” event in partnership with the Allen County Department of Environment Management (ACDEM). On opening night, ACDEM will offer a presentation from 8-8:30 p.m., “Moving Toward a Zero-Waste Lifestyle,” about ways to reduce waste in the Fort Wayne community.