The Fussy Eye: Styrofoam Dragons

Trash art in the ID.

In the group exhibit Home Revealed, which features seven artists who resided at one time or another in the ID, there are some pretty photos and lovely drawings (especially by Amy Nikaitani) that celebrate the Asian American experience in Seattle. But it's the art of Meng Huang that's the oddest and most memorable. The late Chinese immigrant (1924–2001) patrolled the neighborhood for trash that he reshaped, origami-like, into fanciful masks and dragons. A classic self-taught outsider artist, he employed coat hangers, plastic jugs, Styrofoam takeout containers, broken chairs, milk cartons, and cigarette backs to fold into animals, demons, and toys. There's an element of recycling in his work—scavenging for low-cost materials—and also a suggestion of the lonely old urban hoarder, the hermit filling his apartment with junk (as Huang in fact did). But there's also something cheerful about each surprising reuse of detritus—like those Transformer robots suddenly taking shape. Behold this mighty dragon made of hubcaps and plastic forks! Though one of Huang's creations is purely practical and, today, poignant: a metal crutch, rigged to a bicycle brake, that he used to pick art supplies out of the gutter. 

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