New exhibition at Materials for the Arts in Queens turns waste into art

Boundary Layer – Press Release – Photo 1
‘Boundary Layer’ by Kate Rusek, on view at Materials for the Arts.
Photo by Anna Droddy.

A new art exhibition takes what would normally be discarded materials and turns them into art.

The Materials for the Arts Gallery (MFTA) introduces Kate Rusek’s exhibition, “Boundary Layer.” By taking plastic, aluminum and all sorts of materials that would typically be discarded to the trash after their single-use purpose, Rusek created the art installations.

“This work challenges the limits of ordinary perception, akin to looking at a snowflake with a magnifying glass,” said artist Kate Rusek in a press release.

Her work is typically “Influenced by man-made environmental catastrophes, emotional landscapes, and ecological systems, Kate Rusek assembles highlight tactile sculptures transmuting these themes into lavish maximalism,” according to Rusek’s website. 

The exhibit encompasses movement and color and explores the balance between nature and artifice. 

Kate Rusek, ‘Desire as Colonial Organism’ (2024), reclaimed vinyl, nylon, discarded acrylic, pre-consumer mascara wands, anodized aluminum, vintage lead crystal and glass 50 x 72 x 10 in.

“In Boundary Layer, Rusek’s assemblages resemble arthropod-like creatures whose infinitely small, yet complex structures have been enlarged to sumptuous proportions,” said the press release. 

From mascara wands to crystals, the artworks use a variety of materials that would usually be found in the trash. The art installation asks the viewer to look closer at the materials bending and blending. 

“MFTA’s Artist-in-Residence program consistently brings in artists whose imaginative use of repurposed materials is an inspiration and revelation, and Kate Rusek’s remarkable ‘Boundary Layer’ is no exception,” said in a press release Laurie Cumbo, commissioner of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. 

“Kate has been coming to shop at the warehouse for many years and I had the pleasure to engage with her more deeply through her installation ‘Imagined Fungal Emergence’ at Socrates Sculpture Park last fall,” said Tara Sansone in a press release, executive director at MFTA.

Over the course of the years, the residency has been awarded to artists that repurpose the donated supplies to the MFTA. This year, Rusek is one of the three artists in residence. Through the program, she was able to freely use the studio space, had access to the city program’s warehouse, and a stipend.  

The MFTA aims to inspire artists and non-artists to incorporate nontraditional arts materials into their creative projects. 

“I encourage all New Yorkers to check out this exhibition and learn more about MFTA’s work reshaping artistic possibilities through sustainable practices to champion a cleaner, greener, more creative New York City,” said Cumbo. 

The exhibition is free and open to the public at the Materials for the Arts Gallery in Queens, New York from now until Aug. 2. The Materials for the Arts gallery is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.