Studio Dirt:

Practice Preserves

“Despite the second hand economy's’ growth, the interchangeability of terms such as junk, scrap, and salvage reveals contemporary America’s lack of specific knowledge of life, death and afterlife of objects they discard.”

-Shirley Teresa Wajada

Operating at the intersection of curating and art making, this project aims to archive practices of a group of artists through alternate means of preservation. The invitation to the right was sent to a selection of emerging and mid-career artists in hopes that I will receive samples of their making scraps.

Jar Opening (noun): an event or art happening in which a jar of studio dirt is opened collectively with the intention of analyzing and documenting the contents.

Dear Artist,


Throughout our history as a country, we have gone through different phases of valuing material and scrap. In colonial days, during the depression, and notable wartimes, we were more resourceful with our waste out of necessity. During easier times, salvaging, scavenging, and collecting was looked down upon or even seen as ‘low-life.’ In recent history, the amount of thrift stores, reuse centers, junkyards and salvage stores has decreased but their popularity with creative communities has increased leading to contemporary phenomenons such as pinterest, the DIY movement, and the boom of artisan and craft industries.


I have become increasingly interested in junk, thrift and scrap culture in america. The objects we are surrounded by tell histories and are key players in space making. For this reason, I am curious about the history of our relationship with stuff and how we as artists, and sometimes object makers, are aligned. Some of us may utilize scrap, junk and salvage in our work in efforts to combat waste but what happens to what we don’t use or our old projects? Do we create second-hand waste? And what can be learned from our discarded material?


I am writing you to solicit a sample of your scrap. If you accept, fill this jar with your art making waste. This can be anything that would end up in your studio trash, down your sink, or anything you would normally not hold on to. Simply empty your dustpan into this jar or make it part of your practice. When this jar is full, reach out to me and I will make arrangements to retrieve it. By returning this jar, you are agreeing to the terms that I may utilize your name and scraps in a tasteful manner that benefits the project. You will be kept in the loop about future development and at any time can opt out of publicity or ask that I discontinue use of your practice waste.


My goal is to archive practices of a group of artists through alternate means of preservation while exploring the relationship between homesteading and art making. I am hoping to understand a practice through its scrap material similar to the way we understand american culture through junk and thrift stores.




Nava Levenson

support for this project:


Anything Art Grant

from Specto Artspace in Bridgewater, VA

Torpedo Factory Art Center 's

 Post- Grad Residency Program in Alexandria, VA


Participating Artists thus far

Alex Foster | Richmond, VA

Amy Wetsch | Baltimore, MD

Antonia B. Larkin | Atlanta, GA

Beverly Ryan | Alexandria, VA

Braxton Congrove | Richmond, VA

Cameron Wilson Ritcher | Richmond, VA

Greg Stewart | Harrisonburg, VA

Hannah Lewis | Ft Meyrs, FL

Hattie Eshleman | Lynchburg, VA

John Ros | Brooklyn, NY

Jorge Escobar-Lopez | Richmond, VA

Jaynie Rogers | Harrisonburg, VA

Julia Gartrell | Durham, NC

Kevin Sabo | Richmond, VA

Laura-Paige Mertins | Harrisonburg, VA

Maia Leppo | Pittsburg, PA

Michaela Japec | Alexandria, VA

Nolan Federow | Wanakena, NY

R. Mertens | Harrisonburg, VA

Rebecca Hurt | Winchester, VA

Rebecca Silberman | Gordonsville, VA

Riley Kleve | Minneapolis, MN

Samuel Richardson | Richmond, VA

Sissy Cutchen | Alexandria, VA

Sofi Bugge | Richmond, VA

Stephanie Williams | Washington, D.C.

Théo Bignon | Chicago, IL

Tyler Stoll | Richmond, VA



Copyright Nava Levenson 2016. All Rights Reserved. Photography by Pinwheel Collective. Photography by Nava Levenson