Artists Elevate the Ordinary

Two New Yorkers find beauty -- and profit -- in everyday, surrounding materials.
Publish date:

"Art is the elimination of the unnecessary," Pablo Picasso once said. And that's exactly how

E.S. Klein works when he creates his 3-D masterpieces, which are crafted entirely out of tape.

Sometimes artists are created by accident: Klein was pursuing a career in acting in New York City when his artwork started to receive increased recognition.

Klein made use of masking, aluminum, mesh and gaffing tapes, among others, to make textured shapes on various surfaces -- plywood, Plexiglas, particle board, cardboard, fabric and furniture. He then coated the pieces with a polyurethane glaze to preserve the form.

Where did he get the idea to start using tape? "I had this empty red frame on the wall with Plexiglas, and I just put red duct tape on it," says Klein.

Later, "my artist friends were using my loft for an art show and I decided it was a good idea to include some of my own pieces. At the art show, several art critics commented on the pieces and encouraged me to continue ... with my work," says Klein.

That was four and half years ago; now he's a full-time artist, and his pieces sell for between $800 and $10,000, depending on the size of the work and the time involved. He has even garnered celebrity attention, selling one piece to Cameron Douglas, son of actor Michael Douglas.

How long does it take to create his masterpieces? The smaller pieces take about week, while the more involved ones require almost up to a month to create.

Next up, Klein is collaborating with photographer and artist

Peter Beard, to accent some of Beard's photographs with tape.

Viewer Experience

Did you ever think of using shoelaces to make a piece of art? Probably not, but that's what Brooklyn artist Sheila Pepe has done.

Her latest work, featured in the

Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting

show at

The Museum of Arts & Design in New York City, is titled


, and was crafted out of nautical towline, shoelaces and metallic thread.

Pepe cites the orderly layout of midtown Manhattan as the inspiration for its gridlike form.

The sprawling installation, which was suspended from the ceiling, took a few months to create.

"It takes a while to understand what I am going to do, and to do research I walked around midtown and took pictures," says Pepe.

Pepe has a significant amount of art training, receiving an MFA from the prestigious School of the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston, but always considers how the viewer taker in her pieces.

"At the end of the day, when it's all made, the viewer is experiencing the visual impact of something that looks like art but also looks like an abstract drawing," says Pepe.

Like Klein, Pepe is looks more closely at ordinary materials.

"I like things that look like art but at the same time, when you look more carefully, you see something you could find in your kitchen drawer, like a pair of shoelaces," Pepe says.

Few of Pepe's works will be preserved --


is among them -- but she says she doesn't mind that many of her art installations are temporary.

Pepe compares herself to a great bottle of wine: "One shouldn't be afraid to spend time and money on wine, and then it's over." Her work sells for about $10,000 to $20,000 per piece.

Partially due to her chosen media, Pepe considers her work appealing to a wide audience.

"It's very subtle in the material used and the process. It's because I enjoy an audience that's very broad, so I can talk to folks about the finer points of artistic intentions and at the same time have everyone come to the work and enjoy it and see things a tiny bit differently," says Pepe.

She finds a deeper meaning in her art, as well.

"I want to give people another perspective of a moment that gives them a pause in the day, where you're allowed to set everything on the side and take a different take and have beauty in life," Pepe explains.

Pepe will next be participating in the summerlong

River to River Festival, sponsored by

American Express

, in locations throughout Manhattan. "There will a lot of knitting and people can come and participate to make things themselves," says Pepe; her event is during the first week of September.

If you can't make the festival, however, don't let that stop you. Look around in your house -- perhaps the materials you find will inspire you to create your own masterpiece.

Enjoy the Good Life? Email us with what you'd like to see in future articles.