Elgin artist Diane Keys loves discarded writing -- detailed grocery lists left behind at the store, innocent love notes mistakenly dropped on the ground.
To some it's just trash, but Keys turns it into "Trashpo" -- as trash and poetry -- in her latest exhibit on display at Elgin City Hall.
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The art installation includes found objects and recycled materials that were mailed to her by artists from 26 countries, including Belgium, Oman, Australia, South Africa, France, Japan, Greece, China, Russia, Italy, Brazil, Latvia, Portugal, Norway and Uruguay, Keys said.
There's mostly paper with writing -- both printed and handwritten -- of various sorts, but also party streamers, compressed cans, bottle caps, cigarette packs and even one artist's hair.
"Some of it is mine, most all of it is from other people," she said.
The exhibit is an example of the "Mail Art" movement, through which artists from around the world send each other art via mail, said Keys, who put out a call for materials about six months ago.
Keys knows that trashpo is probably not for everyone -- especially germophobes, she joked.
"People that are more into traditional art typically aren't interested in it (trashpo), because they think it should be pretty," she said, "I think it's beautiful. It's just a different medium."
Sylvia Grady, the city's liaison to the Elgin Cultural Arts Commission, agreed.
"There's so much to look at. It takes a really long time to look through all of the little pieces and then put it all of it together," she said. "It really is an amazing piece of work."
The exhibit mirrors Elgin's focus on sustainability and recycling, Grady said.
"The idea that Keys reached out and got materials from around the world, it shows this is not just a local problem, but a global problem."
The exhibit will remain on display at city hall for another three or so weeks, then it will be put in storage until it sees the light of day again at Elgin's Green Expo in May.