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Bede Van Dyke's eco-friendly art
In honor of Earth Day on April 22, let an exhibition of repurposed artwork inspire you to reduce, reuse, and recycle

IN HONOR of Earth Day on April 22, let an exhibition of repurposed artwork inspire you to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

The latest art show at the City of Savannah’s Cultural Arts Gallery is a joint effort between architect Bede Van Dyke and students from J.G. Smith, Garrison K-8, and Beach High.

“Rescued Papers” is Van Dyke’s collection of over thirty collages made with recycled material.

“I’ve been putting these things together for several years now,” Van Dyke says. “It’s like a series of layers in many ways — I stack different things on top of each other. A lot of it is packing materials such as egg cartons; some of them are more collections of ordinary things.

“One is an internal packaging or cushioning that they put together when they ship wine, and I put those preformed cellulose pieces together and it makes almost a city-like thing.”

That piece, “Wine Packing,” is captivating in its repetitive composition and creates a feeling of ordered satisfaction.

Van Dyke’s area of concentration is eco-friendly architecture, and a sustainable lifestyle has always been on his radar. In 1970, he was part of the first nationwide Earth Day celebration.

“I was returning to Houston and saw in the New York Times they were going to have an Earth Day,” he recalls. “I went back to Houston and called all the environmental groups I could think of. We all met and formed a group, and we had the first Earth Day in conjunction with the first Earth Day all over the country.”

Much of Van Dyke’s work is abstract, so he’s free to create art without any restriction on subject matter. He often turns to the I Ching, an ancient Chinese divination text, to receive feedback on his pieces.

“There are 64 hexagrams, and each tells a story,” he explains. “You ask the I Ching a question and throw these sticks or coins, and it gives you an answer. I’ve found it’s pretty accurate. Each thing kind of talks to you and says, ‘Do this, do that,’ and you glue it down. That’s how I do all my artwork.”

One of his pieces is dedicated to the I Ching itself. Made entirely out of corrugated cardboard, the three center segments line up in a way that’s similar to one of the hexagrams. The simplicity of the piece feels calm and reassuring.

“Repurposed Electronics,” the second exhibition in the gallery, features sculptures made from old electronic devices provided by the Chatham County Recycling Center.

J.G. Smith students yarn-bombed a computer and replaced its monitor with string lights, showing the potential for beauty in items that are no longer functional.

The eco-friendly pieces will be on display through the end of April, which is plenty of time to gather inspiration for your own recycled art projects.