By Megan Reilly on June 16, 2010

Artist Sandhi Schimmel-Gold reuses old junk mail and other paper products as the base for her colorful portraiture.

It's the phrase that defines the fine art mosaic portraits created by Sandhi Schimmel Gold. Sustainability minded in her art for the last 10 years, a large portion of her portraits are made from reusing junk mail. Using resources that might go to waste is something that Schimmel Gold prides herself in. The art featured on has become a career for Schimmel Gold, one that she is grateful for; it gives her life artistic fulfillment.


"Knowing every day is another day to be creative and create something exciting and unique is amazing," Schimmel Gold says, continuing that she hopes to see even more growth. "Naturally, I would like to extend my reach. I would like to show in more galleries. It would be great fun to have additional museum shows, and have my work at international expositions."

1-800-RECYCLING talked with Schimmel Gold about everything from her extensive sustainability efforts to what comes next.

1-800-RECYCLING: Why do you think it is so important that art and sustainability go hand in hand?

Schimmel Gold: For me, the art comes first. That said, artists have always used whatever materials were available. I've always saved everything I might use in my work. Why not reuse or repurpose materials to create art? Sustainability is part of my nature; I've been trying to lead as "green" a life myself — recycling, composting, buying local, etc.

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1-800-RECYCLING: What is your connecting theme in all of your art?

Schimmel Gold: I am most interested in faces. Portraits have always been my "thing." Color is also in integral part of my process. I have developed a style — it hasn't changed much over the years. I think these factors make my work recognizable. Last year, I had a theme of "Angels and Icons," which included an angel, a few saints, a fashion icon, Venus and even Mother Nature.

1-800-RECYCLING: What inspires you?

Schimmel Gold: I have a never-ending stream of inspiration. History, fashion, music and travel are probably the most prevalent. I might be inspired by a book, a place, a song, a couture collection. I spend time in libraries and museums, so you'll see a piece inspired by Art Nouveau architecture, another from Maria Callas performing "Ave Maria," or the myth of the Minotaur.

1-800-RECYCLING: Can you share a piece that was especially challenging?

Schimmel Gold: Custom portraits are the most challenging. When I create a piece of work, I do whatever inspires me. When you create for someone else, you have a whole different set of expectations. Even if a client says "do whatever you want" [and they have] I still worry about it. As it is, I am meticulous, so this process of sharing, taking input, etc. is different than my deferring to my own critical eye. So far, everyone has been pleased, but I still suffer.

1-800-RECYCLING: Are there any events/ showings that people can see?

Schimmel Gold: I am mostly taking the summer "off" to create a new collection. This year's theme is "Emotional Influences," which will illustrate the connection between a particular song, an emotion and an image. I do have gallery shows this summer in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Denver. I list events, locations and dates on my website.


1-800-RECYCLING: If someone is interested in viewing your art, what do they do?

Schimmel Gold: It's best to see in person. Although all my work is online, it is difficult to see how much detail is in each piece, or discover the textures. Visit one of the galleries where it is on display, or call to make an appointment for a studio visit in Phoenix.

1-800-RECYCLING: Tell us about the sustainable materials that you use.

Schimmel Gold: I save all paper that might be useful in my work — this is my paper waste: junk mail, post cards, greeting cards, business cards, calendars, menus, packaging, photographs, labels, etc. I also reuse canvas, board, frames, etc. even from yard sales and thrift stores [better than ending up in a landfill!]. All of the paints, adhesives, lacquers and other materials I use are acid-free, water based and nontoxic.

Sandhi Schimmel Gold learned to mix paint before she could write my name and played piano before she could read music. She spent her youth sitting quietly in her bedroom drawing. She cut school to spend days at art museums and galleries in New York City. Schimmel Gold changed disciplines in grad school so many times, she decided to take her lifelong love of learning out of academia. In most ways, she is self-taught. She studied mosaics overseas and applied this knowledge into her current work. She is very much influenced by what she has seen during her extensive travels.

About the author

Megan Reilly is an environmentally conscious freelancer based in Santa Monica, CA. Fresh from the land of agriculture (California's Central Valley), this se[...]
Learn more about Megan Reilly

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