May 22, 2019

Mendelson Converts Plastic into Art

“DONUT ANIMAL ASKOS”: This work by Shari Mendelson was created from repurposed plastic. “Shari Mendelson: Amphorae and Apparitions” is on view at the Hunterdon Art Museum through September 1. (Photo by Alan Wiener)

New York-based artist Shari Mendelson creates works that resemble something you’d expect to see in the antiquities gallery of a fine art museum, but take a closer look.

Mendelson creates her ancient-appearing vessels and figurines using salvaged plastic: juice, soda, and water bottles. She cuts them into pieces and then, using hot glue and acrylic resin, creates new sculptures.

“Shari Mendelson: Amphorae and Apparitions” is on exhibition at the Hunterdon Art Museum (HAM) through September 1.

“The original material is transformed from plastic trash into pieces that address issues of history, culture, and the relative value of objects,” Mendelson said.

She said the work resonates even for those unfamiliar with ancient art or who haven’t studied it. “They’ll often say this reminds me of an ancient Roman piece,” she noted. “That’s a nice touchstone to introduce them to the work.”

Mendelson’s eco-sculptures reframe our past and confront our conspicuous consumption and what that means to our future. And sometimes the work befuddles those viewing it for the first time.

“People might not know where the recycled plastic is,” Mendelson noted. “Then they begin to see a logo or a recycling stamp with a label and then they begin to get it. That’s what draws them in.”

“Using plastic bottles, Mendelson at once puts contemporary environmental issues on a collision course with civilization’s long history,” said Marjorie Frankel Nathanson, executive director of the Hunterdon Art Museum. “By presenting this work HAM hopes to spark a discussion that might include the environment, consumerism, ancient civilizations and contemporary values.”

Her creations have been shown nationally and internationally including solo exhibitions at Todd Merrill Studio in Manhattan, Pierogi Gallery in Brooklyn, and John Davis Gallery in Hudson, New York. Among other recognitions, the artist has received four New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships, and is a 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient. Mendelson received her MFA from SUNY New Paltz in 1986 and is currently a lecturer at Parsons School of Design in Manhattan.

The Hunterdon Art Museum is at 7 Lower Center Street in Clinton. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.  to 5 p.m. For more information, call (908) 735-8415 or visit the website at