On View: Sculpture Made From Recycled Materials by the Green Chicks

August 12, 2018

"Steampunk Pig," created by Suzanne Miller of Green Chicks Studio, 12 inches tall.

Duct tape is a mainstay in many household tool boxes; and it is an indispensable component of the Green Chicks’ sculptures. An exhibit of sculptures crafted from recycled and found items — along with duct tape — created by the Green Chicks, Nikki Cooper and Suzanne Miller, is on view in the second-floor display cases at University Hospital, 600 Highland Ave.

Cooper and Miller have both dedicated themselves to helping the earth by repurposing and recycling items into art. More than a decade ago, the two collaborated to show their creations at art fairs. From there, they opened Green Chicks Studio in downtown Monroe. The studio offered them a place to create their art, teach classes and run a retail shop.

Business for the Green Chicks has evolved into more commercial and commission work with a shift in focus away from teaching and retail. They have plans to close their downtown location at the end of the year and create art full-time from their private studios.

Plastic bottles, food containers, paper-mached balloons, wire, broken pencils, and “anything else we can scrounge that has a cool shape” are the foundation for one of their sculptures. To create an armature, Cooper and Miller use duct tape to bind the items together. They then dip strips of sheets and quilting scraps into their own special glue formula and cover the armature in fabric-mache. This hardens the armature.

In the next step of the process, Cooper and Miller make their own paper clay from newspaper pulp, glue and other ingredients and add it to the armature to create details. Once the clay is dry, a coating of acrylic mediums are added to seal the surface. The coating also gives them a surface to draw on fine details like feathers and fur.

As a high school student, Cooper created a weekly comic strip for her local newspaper. Primarily a self-trained artist, she took many classes to hone her abilities and found a way to turn her comical doodles into 3D sculptures. Her “Nik-er-Doodles” are one-of-a-kind.

With bachelor degrees in animal science and agricultural education, Cooper once taught high school agriculture classes and is still involved in 4-H and FFA. Most recently, she teaches art to pre-K through 5th grade at St. Victor School in Monroe and completed her first children’s book, “Johnny McGee and His Sweet Purple Pants.”

Miller earned a bachelor of fine arts in art and graphic design from UW-Madison. Over the years, she has worked as a professional artist in the fields of graphic design, illustration, painting, sculpture, mural painting, theatrical set and prop design, and art education. It was in her years as a theatrical prop designer that her fascination with recycled sculpture took root. She said the techniques she learned in that field led to much experimentation and finessing of the art form.

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