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To local artist Erwin Timmers, not all good things must come to an end; instead, they must be melted down. Timmers has made it his mission to refashion discarded tempered window glass into sculpted pieces of art. “It just goes against my nature to use up something new if it’s already available, taking up valuable space on a trash heap,” says the 43-year-old Silver Spring resident, whose exhibition “Re-creation—a Green Artist’s View” opened Wednesday, May 23, at the Studio Gallery.
Tempered glass—glass that’s been quickly heated and cooled to create a high surface tension—is often used in large buildings where windows must withstand harsh elements. Timmers most often finds his raw materials through glass distributors who contract with large building sites; he gets scratched or damaged windows that would otherwise end up in landfills. To assemble his sculptures, Timmers smashes the tempered glass, melts the pieces into 20-by-20-inch sheets, lets the sheets cool, and then fires them again so that the heated glass slumps into a plaster mold of his design.
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Timmers crafted one such mold in the likeness of a sound wave created when he spoke the word “help” into a digital audio program. When he laid the heated glass into the mold and let it cool, the glass took on the contour of the voiceprint; Timmers then backlit the glass with a neon bulb of the same shape. The piece, titled Silent Spring, will appear in the Studio Gallery show.
Glass isn’t the only material to find a second life in Timmers’ studio. The artist often works his recycled glass into scrapped steel housings, including old traffic lights. One three-tiered light, The Drop That Made the Bucket Overflow, depicts a descending red neon raindrop that eventually splashes to the ground; the light’s recycled glass lenses increasingly fill with bubbles at each successive tier, until they nearly fill the bottom lens. “Both tempered glass and steel have an industrial heft and a roughness to them,” he says. Examples of this marriage between glass and metal can also be found in several works of public art that Timmers has designed, including pieces at the Prince George’s County Courthouse and within the courtyard of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Ariel Rios Building.
Public displays of green art on government property notwithstanding, Timmers is well aware that, for the time being, the dialogue his art opens is a limited one. Each time a piece of window glass is recycled, its clarity degrades as small bubbles appear within it. For this reason, the practice of recycling window glass is not widely practiced in the United States—despite the fact that doing so requires only about 60 percent of the energy needed to produce a brand new piece of glass. Though this kind of wastefulness frustrates Timmers, he’d rather start a conversation through his art than scream into a bullhorn.
“I’m not starting any rallies. I’m not making a political statement,” he says. “It’s more like a personal display of how I feel about [recycling].”
“Re-creation—a Green Artist’s View” is on view from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, to Sunday, June 17, at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW. Free. (202)-232-8734.