Corrugated cardboard sculpture artist Mark Langan takes discarded boxes and upcycles them into stunning works of art. Using the simple tools of used cardboard, a cutting knife and non-toxic glue, he painstakingly compiles hundreds of pieces of cardboard to make his intricate works of art.
Langan has designed cardboard artworks for corporations and companies, including Kellogg's sustainability awards and for David Arquette’s new clothing line Propr. His eco-artwork hangs in museums and is included in numerous private collections. We caught up with Mark Langan to find out a bit more about upcycling cardboard into art.
Please describe your artwork for us.
For me, my artwork celebrates the unique properties of a relatively obscure source as an art medium but otherwise as a manufactured product which is very much familiar globally to all individuals.
How did you start working with recycled cardboard?
My original "career" was working in the transportation industry being employed by a containership line named Evergreen and afterwards with a number of motor carriers in the Cleveland area.
With a recent layoff I decided to take a break from this grueling industry and try to make a go of it with my art. This, coupled with an awesome spouse (Connie) being very supportive, and knew I was on to something that enabled me to do so.
Up to that time I was always the "extreme hobbyist" with my art enjoyed basically by only family and friends. When a neighbor moved to a new home I asked them to save their boxes after they settled in. As it turned out, I created my first corrugated art from those recycled boxes and with such great results from it that I have been sort of "hooked" on it since.
Where do you get your materials?
My corrugated materials come from my own personal consumption. I even have my neighbors inspired; they will contact me that they have an awesome sized box or boxes, knowing that I'd be happy to use them. Some clients have even shipped me their "garbage" so that specific corrugated boxes can be utilized in the art I create for them by allowing me to more personalize them. I am at no loss for materials, which is a good thing. If I were to ever run out (which I would never) they are available within minutes.
What other tools do you use to create your art?
My tools are very simple and part of what I enjoy the most. I use a heavy duty self healing cutting mat, specifically OLFA knife blades, non-toxic Elmer's Glue-All brand, a steel cutting rail, an etched metal ruler. Every piece is individually measured, cut, dry fit and then glued one onto another. It a very slow and laborious process and many times involves a 100 plus hours of work with some artworks comprised of over 1000 or more individual pieces.
Do you consider yourself an environmental artist?
It would be naive of me to say that I am an environmental artist. I am however becoming increasingly concerned and aware of all the environmental issues being raised and thus examine my own ways and means contributing to this glut of waste.
My hope is that my art is inspiration to those that view it and that they would consider their own recycling practices and motivate them to get more involved.
Does the use of the cardboard make the art impermanent?
Although I have no actual idea on how my art will stand the test of time, the artworks that I create are engineered for stability by cleanly wrapping any open ends, glued top and bottom, glue washes applied to all exterior facings, & sprayed with matte medium as a UV protection. Like any traditional art (as in a watercolor, oil or other) it should not be kept in extremely high humidity, nor direct sunlight conditions.