Local artist Laura Laura uses found objects to create sustainable art. Her work is on display at Greenspace, where it will stay until sold. Photo by Nallely Ruiz

When Laura Laura got on the wrong bus on her way home from work in San Francisco, the man in the next seat asked if she was lost.

“No,” she said, “I’m on a bus.”

All untamed energy and disarming curiosity, Laura described how in 1982 that man became her ticket to a year-long sailing trip from San Francisco through the charged waters of Nicaragua in the midst of revolution, and then up to Florida. She said the experience changed her life and her art.

Laura’s art is all about recycling. Featured at Greenspace’s recent First Friday exhibit, her pieces are all made with reclaimed materials.

Her art illustrates what she calls the “womanly art of recycling.” For generations, she said, women have used sustainable practices by hemming and mending, darning and turning. These practical skills help conserve future resources.

“The reusing of everything we can is so important,” she said, “but only if we do it in a smart way. It’s the only thing we can do that’s kind to the earth.”

Converting junk into art isn’t simply something Laura loves to do — it is something she can’t live without.

“I guess it’s what ‘hungry’ feels like,” she said.

Lydia Corser, owner of Greenspace, a “unique retail showroom specializing in green products for the home and business” according to the showroom’s website, said that Laura’s work is more than art — it is a statement that demonstrates the “waste of our world juxtaposed with nature.”

Fellow Greenspace featured artist Kyhiera Machado said it is fitting that recycled goods are increasingly used as artistic media.

“It’s an important reflection of our value system, and [gets the] arts community thinking about the part they play in helping and harming the environment,” Machado said.

Machado said people should emulate sustainable living methods at home and in art.

“I think the conscious intent toward green living is reflected in the choices they make in decorating their living areas,” she said.

Laura’s pieces put a new spin on what Machado refers to as “assemblage art.”

“[Assemblage art involves] found objects incorporated into pieces that inspire reactions and feelings completely different than they did in the context they were originally intended for,” Machado said. “It surprises me that more people aren’t doing art. Open up your junk drawer. It’s only junk until you put it together.”

Transforming someone’s trash, Laura took the skeleton of a mattress and affixed light bulbs for Xs and Os to hang high on the Greenspace wall. She calls it “Love Springs Forth,” a tribute to the hidden beauty of forgotten bedsprings.

Laura doesn’t think that sustainable living should end with art.

“As humans, we have a responsibility to take care of what is already here,” she said. “We don’t need to build another building. We don’t need to scrape another three feet of the earth to find what we need to survive. Where is my carbon footprint going to be in 15 years?”

Epitomized in the request to have her name written in lower case as “laura laura,” the artist heavily downplays her work. Although it has been in past Art League Jury shows and various local county exhibits, Laura focuses on forging something that inspires conversation rather than a marketable product.

“I’m just not a business person,” she said.

As a librarian at Cabrillo College, Laura said she is constantly inspired by the local youth. The student population is essential in Santa Cruz’s artistic growth, she said.

Photo by Nallely Ruiz

“[Youth is the time] before you get tainted with too much ‘No you can’t, no you can’t, what are you doing?’” Laura said. “It’s so important for students to get their art out there, or at least feel that they could.”

Laura plans to participate in this summer’s Santa Cruz Art League Jury Fiber Arts competition with a piece that combines farm tools, crocheted materials and old bedspreads.

Any form of artistic expression is valuable, Laura said.

“If I had a gallery, it would all be refrigerator doors,” she said. “I think everything everybody does deserves to be up on a refrigerator somewhere.”