Sally Warren's exhibit "Convenience Store" explores an ugly urban problem.​ Above, Bright Shiny Crinkly, 2017. Inkjet on Hahnemuhle Photorag, 31 x 42"

May 24, 2017

A local artist wants us to take a closer look at litter. That’s why she blew up her images of artfully arranged trash to larger than life size.

A collection of Dallas artist Sally Warren’s trash collages can be seen in her current exhibit Convenience Store, now on view at the Liliana Bloch Gallery in Dallas, through June 17.

Warren, a full-time artist who divides her time between Dallas and Port Townsend, Washington, said her latest work springs from her post-election angst that began last fall.

Sally Warren 500 Years“I had to get a show together and was having trouble working. It was so deflating what had happened,” said Warren, who admitted she was worried about the effect a Trump presidency would have on the environment.

500 Years, 2017. Inkjet on Hahnemuhle Photorag, 31 x 42"

One day, she was driving to Houston to visit family and stopped at a convenience store. A grassy spot filled with litter caught her eye.

“I just felt the urge to pick it up,” said Warren.

As she collected the castoffs, she wondered what kind of people would carelessly throw their refuse on the ground. At first she was angry. Then she dug deeper and discovered some empathy.

“These litterers are humans too. They’re not awful, they’re just not conscious.”

Warren, who earned her MFA from SMU in 2003, said her own fascination with the shiny bits of wrappers and cans made her realize she had compelling material to work with. 

She took it home and laid it all out and began examining it like an archeologist. She realized that these were the very items that anthropologists of the future would study to learn about our culture.

Sally Warren PopAfter a few more litter pickups, she sorted the material and began creating her trash-scapes. The finished pieces, she documented with her camera. 

Pop, 2017. Inkjet on Hahnemuhle Photorag, 31 x 42"

The show features nine of these prints. The largest one spans seven feet. That’s so people can read each label, each ingredient and savor the irony, she says. 

“You have this colorful, pretty, visual appealing stuff. Then you look at and you read the warning labels, you see the toxic ingredients.”

The seven-foot image of a dirty crushed plastic water bottle titled Pillar is particularly iconic to Warren, representing the rampant commodification in our culture.

“We turn everything into a sale,” said Warren. “Even something that comes free out of the faucet. We buy it and have this plastic packaging to throw away.”

Warren said in order to change we must first admit our addiction.

Sally Warren Rich Layer“I came to this conclusion that humans are animals who are attracted to shiny bright things and we have allowed this to drive our culture. We’re all complicit.

Rich Layer, 2017. Inkjet on Hahnemuhle Photorag, 31 x 42"

“First we have to not be in denial about the way we are. Then we can make some different decisions about it.”

Convenience Store

What: A solo exhibition by Dallas artist Sally Warren. Using colorful bits of trash picked up at a rural gas station, the artist finds poignancy in the empty wrappers, and considers the metaphorical possibilities of litter.

Where: Liliana Bloch Gallery, 2271 Monitor Street, Dallas

When: Through June 17

Artist's Talk: June, 3-4 p.m.


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