News Environment Artist Transforms Discarded Objects Into Vibrant Habitats for Plant and Animal Life These delightful miniatures communicate the resilience of nature. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published October 26, 2021 11:00AM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Stephanie Kilgast News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Glass and plastic bottles, cans, and glass jars—these are typically items that we might recycle or reuse, which on their own are pretty mundane everyday objects. But for others, like artist Stephanie Kilgast, these ordinary items are a blank canvas for new and colorful creations that convey an important message about the resilience of the natural world, and our impact on the environment. Bursting with colorful detail, Kilgast's sculptures incorporate the forms of fungi, coral, plants, and various animals that occupy the miniature, imagined landscapes she creates on these inanimate castaways of consumer culture. Based out of Vannes, France, Kilgast works primarily with different types of clay and cold porcelain, which are shaped into various forms that look quite life-like. The idea is to "offer a cheerful post-apocalyptic world," says Kilgast: "My work is an ode to life. I use trash, old objects and books onto which I create a vibrant, abounding representation of plants, animals and fungi. This wild encounter of natural forms and bright colors onto human-made objects come to life in my sculptural and pictorial work." Stephanie Kilgast Kilgast's creative approach often involves frequently reading up on natural history, and gathering any pieces of information or images that seem interesting or inspiring for generating new ideas for projects. Often, Kilgast explains, an idea will strike depending on the kinds of objects that she might pick up from the trash, or from the thrift store: "As I like to juxtapose objects and natural growth, the objects I pick often inform the general direction I will go." Stephanie Kilgast Some of these juxtapositions can be delightfully surprising, such as this brilliant pairing of a songbird and a set of abandoned headphones that are now covered in colorful leaves, flower buds, fungi, and barnacles—all vibrantly hued. Stephanie Kilgast Kilgast's color schemes for her sculptures are often carefully executed, as in this piece that features a thrifted can of cleaning agent, and a two-toned set of fungi happily sprouting off to one side. Stephanie Kilgast This beat-up aluminum can, which was once forsaken by its human overlords, has now been adopted by what looks like some bright green marine plants and corals. Stephanie Kilgast Some of Kilgast's more popular works focus on threatened species, like this piece that features a mother polar bear and her cub, their bright white fur standing in contrast to the vivid colors of the fungi beside them. Stephanie Kilgast Another charming sculpture has a miniature family of elephants grouped on top of a reused plastic canteen, surrounded by tall fungi. Stephanie Kilgast These seemingly incongruous adjacencies are part of Kilgast's message that humans are not as dominant as we might like to think: "Humans are a part of nature, which we often like to forget, creating an artificial barrier between us and the natural world. Unfortunately, by destroying our environment so radically, we are destroying ourselves." Stephanie Kilgast Kilgast says that her artworks purposely exclude any trace of human presence, except for those artificial human-made artifacts that have been carelessly thrown away, pointing to yet another potential facet of the future that's in store for us if we don't correct our self-destructive course: "Humans have taken it too far on how much they impact the rest of nature. Our species is destroying all the rest right now. In my work, we are out of the picture, only our objects are left behind, and nature can finally grow back." Stephanie Kilgast Ultimately, Kilgast says that the goal of her work is to question the impact of humans' unbridled consumerism on the environment—as evidenced in the mountains of useless "stuff" that we throw away without so much as a second thought—while also instilling a sense of wonder in the beauty and power of nature. She says: "We need eco systems to survive, and to keep Earth habitable, not just for us, but for all other beings on it as well." To see more, visit Stephanie Kilgast, or check out one of her upcoming exhibitions in Comoedia (Brest, France), Beinart Gallery (Melbourne, Australia), and Modern Eden Gallery (San Francisco).