Local weekly paper covering regional news and events gets an interview with artist Lisa Bagwell. by Tara Collins AKA Twisted T

For all of us who have love and respect for our magical and majestic Atlantic Ocean, seeing beach trash is heartbreaking. To walk along the shore seeing what the tide has washed up is sad because along with the seaweed, shells and driftwood is a lot of human plastic litter that will never break down. You can choose to pass by and keep on walking. If you brought along a bag, you can pick some up and toss the items in the recycling bin on your way off the beach. Or, if you are someone like Red Bank artist, Lisa Bagwell, you will collect it, clean it and make fantastical sculptures out of it!

Tell me about your art background? Art School or Self-Taught?
I am self-taught! A bright side to my parent’s divorce was getting the chance to visit my Grand Aunt Dot in Oklahoma where my Dad lived. She was a well-respected artist who taught physically disabled people handicrafts so they could earn money. She opened her studio to me and taught me whatever I wanted during our visits together. I learned a lot from her, she was extremely creative and I loved that.

What brought you to create the art that you make? 
I began working with trash in 2005 while working at a camp (Camp Oakhurst which is now Rising Treetops). I had a lightbulb moment and realized that building sculpture with trash would be a great way to combine my impulse to make things and draw awareness to how much trash humans create. I had become quite the environmentalist in college and was brought up not to be wasteful. Also, I like to collect things and do puzzles so it was sort of the perfect collaboration of interests. I have always admired creative reuse and collage art, so why not give it a go? At first, I made weird mobiles, robots and buildings. At that time, I was fortunate to show my work at the free art and music events known as, “The Big Art Show” that were happening in the old Howard Johnson (“HOJO”) and other venues in Asbury Park. I was thrilled that people were looking at what I made. I have continued building with trash ever since.

What is your process with your art making? 
It all starts with the materials I have collected since they inform the art most of the time and I consider how I acquired these items as part of the process. In addition to myself and my immediate family, there are about 15 people who collect things for me. Instead of throwing their dead pens and contact lens containers in the trash, it goes into a bag for me and I find that bag outside my door. People also gift to me their own collections that they had grand artistic plans for but were not able to follow through with.  I have collections of bottlecaps, corks, pens, straws, containers, cassette tapes, six pack rings, lighters, twist ties, old shoes and other odds and ends.  I sort and store the collections of things and then think of how I can use them in a sculpture. Alternatively, I might want to replicate a bird or animal and I will use a variety of materials in the construction. I get to purge my materials when I teach workshops like the annual Monmouth Arts Teen Arts Festival at Brookdale, which I have done for over ten years.

I also collect beach trash and work with those materials separately from the household trash items. The work I make from beach trash, I believe, has a certain resonance to it since it shines a light on the plastic pollution in our oceans and how imbedded it is in our environment. I work on a small scale with these materials since I could never keep up with processing the amount of plastic we pull from the beaches. I keep a selection of favorite and common beach items for my work. We now have a geographical layer of plastic on the earth’s crust. Plastic is filling the bodies of 90% of fish and mammals in the ocean and we even have plastics in our own blood.

How do you think the community can better support their artists?
I love it when restaurants open their walls to artists to display their work and when businesses host holiday market pop ups for people to sell their small handmade goods. Any creative way that presents itself for the arts to become more a part of our daily lives I am all for. We also need more spaces for free expression of music and the visual arts. It is important that there be spaces for people to come together to share their art outside of the money system. I love to see art that is not made to be sold, experimental stuff, it is art for art’s sake and we need to make space for that to grow new ideas.

What would you like to see happen in the Monmouth County art community?
I don’t want to make demands on the art community. I know it has its share of difficulties. The Arts are underfunded and grant money needs to be constantly chased. Brick and mortar galleries have rent to pay and are often run by volunteers that are hard-working and extremely dedicated. If I’m being idealistic, I would imagine there being more collaborations between galleries and the communities they exist in, more street art, public art, sculpture gardens, art fairs and working more with local schools and in the parks to promote environmental consciousness or social justice issues. Art should be accessible to everyone and not just within the walls of art galleries (the special places that they are!).

Lisa is an extraordinary person who not only is a passionate environmentalist working with numerous nonprofit environmental organizations, she is also the manager of Kula Urban Farm, Operated by Interfaith Neighbors Check it out!

You can find Lisa on IG: @lisa.bagwell | Website: