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‘It’s beautiful chaos’

Sylvania artist, inspired by familiar words, finds beauty in used objects

    Americans constantly hear the mantra reduce, re-use, recycle, and sometimes they may even practice it by tossing our soda can in the collection bin. But how many of them have ever looked at an old cabinet door or bicycle wheel and thought, “I can use that?”
    Well, Donny Humes does. Humes recently moved to Sylvania from Ohio and is working in construction, but by night, Humes lets his inner artist out. Actually, his inner artist is always out, even on the job. While remodeling old houses, Humes often finds what he considers small treasures, such as worn pieces of wood and rusted metal objects that most construction crews would toss into the dumpster. He salvages his findings and reuses them to create beautiful, yet sometimes dark pieces of art.
    The 37-year-old artist has been creating sculptures out of found objects since the mid-nineties. Humes worked in a wood mill back in Ohio and would save the knotty scraps to combine them into works of art.  
    “I live for art and see art in many things around me. I am a visionary and can imagine things coming to life before me, like while at work remodeling and doing demolition, I 'm the guy saving items that the rest of the crew is throwing away. That is what makes it so exciting—when I have accumulated enough pieces to make what is in my head come to life through sculpture,” says Humes.
    Humes is currently exhibiting some of his creations at the Screven County Library. He has exhibited many works over the years at various galleries and coffee houses and has even had a few pieces in the Ohio State Fair. He hopes to have a show in Jenkins County in April and then bring his works to Statesboro.
    The artist lives to collect and gets a somewhat high from finding great scraps of worn, weathered objects, even on the side of the road or in parking lots.
    “I get a lot of cool stuff from doing demolition, especially from earlier 1900's homes. The wood is all aged and weathered. I also get old light fixtures, doors, metal from roofs, trim, etc. Some of the best stuff I've gotten has literally been on the side of the road; things that have fallen off cars or out of the back of trash trucks, or where people have decided to dump things illegally.”
    Humes says he feels kind of lucky when he finds a perfect piece. “I get a rush while I'm driving down the road and I see something lying there awaiting my arrival to rescue it from the landfill. I live for it!”
    The self-taught artist works a lot with the process of assemblage, which coincides with his day job in carpentry. But Humes can trace his love of assemblage and piecing things together all the way back to his youth. As a young teen, Humes took an interest in photography. Combined with his love for skateboarding and the punk scene emerging at the time, Humes began creating ‘zines’—home-made Xerox photo copy magazines complete with pictures, stories and advertising about skateboarding.
    “Back in the eighties this scene was new, it was like California skate/surf style and I thought that was cool for a mid-western boy. My zine was called "Smelly Curb" and it consisted of skateboard action shots, articles about local ramps and places to skate, interviews with bands and professional skaters, product ads and reviews, art and poems,” says Humes. “It was an outlet for me to express the skater/artist in me. People were psyched when they got their photo or story published in it. Before I knew it, it became an underground success and skaters from all over the country and world were writing me and sending me photos and stories from there town. It was and still is very popular. I manage to pop one out every year or two to keep it real.”
    Humes has become somewhat of a packrat, keeping a stash of his findings until he has enough of the right pieces to assemble an artwork. He has a series of milk crates and buckets that stores his interesting materials. His very supportive wife, Sonya, doesn’t mind his piles of findings and Humes says it’s a “very controlled situation.” When he feels he has accumulated all the right pieces, the process of turning junk into art begins. 
    “My process can take days to a year before a piece actually comes to life. I wait sometimes for that one piece of found object that I know is the one I need to start and finish my work. When I think I have what it takes to begin the sculpture or piece, I lay everything out and start assembling it. Sometimes there is a twist to the process and it might turn into a completely different idea than what I originally had in my head.”
    His spontaneous side can sometimes conflict with his need to be detailed. He admits he “rarely has a plan, it just all depends if the mood is right and if I have certain pieces that accent or fit with each other.” Humes says he’s a detail freak and compares it to having a third eye.
    The creative process is a true passion for Humes and feels that completing his works are like “giving birth to my wild imagination.” Humes says his art is not pop-art, but rather an "anti-art" or freedom art that is not contained in a pretty frame and all clean. It is raw, brash and full of life.
    “There is a magical sensation about finding and reusing a piece,” says the artist. “I really enjoy overhearing people at shows saying "Oh, look at that, it's an old sewing machine like grandma had or a circuit board from a computer". I get a great satisfaction when folks can inter-act and see that art can come from trash. There’s more going on than just the art, there’s a thought process and an ability to be creative at the same time, while saving something and turning it into a piece of art. It's beautiful chaos...” 

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