Pop artist Marc Laurenson converts trash to treasure

There is art that is trash and trash that is art.

Marc Laurenson wants his work to be seen as the latter.

The pop artist is finding his muse in refuse, picking through the plastic that has washed up or been discarded on Cayman’s beaches to construct such pieces as a mahi mahi, utilizing a Croc and a halved bottle for an eye, and a child’s sand shovel, a piece of rope and other shards of plastic for its tail.

The piece recently sold for $10,000 to a private collector, Laurenson says, with the understanding that $5,500 would be donated to the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Laurenson, 30, is the owner of Stoak’d, an illustration and design company that includes his wife Pamela and Kevin Mounsor. He says every few weeks Plastic Free Cayman, a local conservation group, provides them with some of the material its volunteers cull from community cleanups.

“Rather than throwing it out and letting it go to waste, we can start using it and make something,“ Laurenson says, adding that he isn’t above using his own trash. “We’ve got wrapping paper left over from Christmas.”

Currently, Stoak’d has work on display at Full of Beans in Pasadora Place. The pieces don’t incorporate trash, but include a promotional poster for a recent Chronixx concert, a canvas with “Love” painted over a background of repeated contorted faces and a many-hued scene of Cayman’s waterfront fish market. The exhibit runs until the end of the month.

Marc Laurenson stands next to the mahi mahi created out of recycled materials by Stoak’d studio. – Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

Laurenson also hopes to begin doing sculpture with repurposed materials. He is collecting discarded flip-flops, which will eventually be planed, pressed together with adhesive and shaved into sculptural forms. The idea was popularized in a 2012 YouTube video showing the work of artists in Kenya who developed the process.

It will take many more flip-flops to get the sculpture venture going, Laurenson says, but he is excited about having an additional avenue to produce eco-friendly artwork.

Scottish by birth, Laurenson says his family came to Cayman when he was young but much of his schooling was done abroad. He came home to Cayman during a college break a decade ago and never left.

“I got here and the recession hit,” he says. “I was planning on going back, but I ended up picking up an electrical trade.”

His father is an electrician and Laurenson is currently the general manager of the family business, Cayman Electrical Supply. His art is a hobby that he began during his high school years. But he says he quickly discovered his limitations.

A detailed image shows some of the materials used in Marc Laurenson’s depiction of a mahi mahi. – Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

“I’m a horrible painter,” he says. “I can’t shade to help myself. I went into pop art because it’s blocks of color.”

At the University of the Sunshine Coast near Brisbane, Australia, he took mostly graphic design courses. He’s applied those techniques to the work he does through Stoak’d, which includes making T-shirts, hats and promotional materials for various events. The company has also produced some mural work, mostly in private homes, but also at Cayman’s skate park.

Laurenson and his wife were honeymooning in Paris, when he became inspired by art made from repurposed materials.

“There was a gallery and they made stuff out of magazines and wallpaper,” he says.

The work was by contemporary artist Arnaud Bauville, who specializes in portraits of famous people. Laurenson says he is also inspired by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Brazil’s Butcher Billy.

Since then, Laurenson has created his own composite images using such materials as Coca-Cola and Heineken labels and other commercial materials. He says he’s encouraged by other efforts on the island to repurpose trash for art. An elephant constructed by Carlo Lee, using plastic bottles and other refuse, recently appeared in the field north of Cost-U-Less.

“I would love to see more people doing it,” Laurenson says. “There’s always going to be plastic washing up. It’s up to us to do our bit to make sure it’s recycled.”

Anyone interested in donating used flip-flops for Laurenson’s artwork can call 527-2371.