Heard on Campus: Rebecca Strzelec

February 07, 2017

“I have a problem. And I’m not going to get around it, and I’m not going to apologize for it anymore. I’m old enough now that I’m going to own it. I am a rescuer of objects that are underappreciated. I am the one picking through your trash at night. I am the one at Salvation Army weekly finding all the things that you thought should be ditched. I rescue these objects because so many of them have personal stories and narratives. They were a part of someone’s life and family and have a history that I want to carry forward.”

-- Rebecca Strzelec, professor of visual arts at Penn State Altoona and the 2016-17 Penn State Laureate, speaking during her talk Tuesday (Feb. 7), “Collections, Computers and Craft: An Artistic Practice Fueled by Yard Sales and 3-D Printing,” which was part of the Penn State Forum Speaker Series.

Strzelec gave examples of the objects she finds and keeps, including the collection of more than 100 champagne corks marked with a family’s important dates, which she bought at a Salvation Army Thrift Store.

“I bought this family’s life for $1, and now they’re mine and I get to use them as inspiration for my work. And I do that, not because I take these champagne corks and embed them into jewelry and hang strings around them. No, no, no. I don’t use them literally. I use them as a standard by which to measure my own stories. Am I embedding stories that will inspire someone else to embrace them in an object? Am I using personal histories in a way that will inspire someone decades from now on a Salvation Army shelf if my work ends up there. Am I using these stories in a way that will be meaningful?”

Last Updated February 07, 2017