Trash to treasure

Artist Anna Burke’s recycled mediums at Yellow Springs Arts Council

By Tara Pettit

Local artist Anna Burke is a recognizable by-product of her Yellow Springs environment. In one way, her work exudes inspiration found in the natural landscapes that surround Yellow Springs, reflecting the ecological soul of the small town. In another way, her work embodies the collective mindset formed by an arts community and maintained by common shared values and creative camaraderie, reflecting a spirit of oneness.

In many ways, however, Anna Burke’s artwork is not a recognizable by-product of anything being commonly accomplished in art, which makes her a standout artist in Yellow Springs Art Council’s (YSAC) permanent collection. Her work—bold, stimulating and provocative—will also contribute a unique perspective at YSAC’s scheduled showing of Burke’s work, which will be featured later this month in a three-week long exhibition, Art by Ace.

“There’s such a fresh, youthful feel to Anna’s work,” says Nancy Mellon, YSAC board member and events coordinator. “Her work is also sometimes visionary to me. It usually has sort of a mythical feel … it always gives you something to think about with all its color combinations and patterns, but it’s the story behind it all that really causes you to start thinking though.”

It’s that very storyline woven throughout Burke’s work, as well as the various media she chooses to work with, that sets her creations and style of working apart from other artists. Her artistic storyline, an emerging theme that has remained prevalent in her work since she began seriously creating, is also what Burke hopes to communicate to her audiences in each piece by connecting through shared experiences.

“I think others would describe me as ‘using recycled materials, working with emotional expressionism,’ etc., which is great and everything, but my personal artist statement has more to do with beautifying everything that is around me,” Burke says.

Although Burke’s artwork may not be a recognizable by-product of commonality, it is certainly and quite literally a by-product of the environment as a whole. That’s because her diverse mixed media creations are all constructed from natural or recycled materials she finds in the environment around her.

Whether it’s painting off a car door or creating an entirely functional piece of art in the way of furniture or clothing, Burke transforms everyday objects by reimagining their look, feel, functionality and purpose. She admits to “rarely painting on canvas” as she maintains an open mindset, without parameters or guidelines, to the endless possibilities that exist with random objects she finds.

“My art is really not just limited to what is perceived as art,” Burke says. “I do house renovations, cosmetology, etc., so it’s kind of a 100 percent deal, if that makes sense. It’s taking everything that’s around me and making it beautiful—a lifestyle of sorts.”

Burke hopes to convey the full extent and breadth of her work and the various media she chooses to work with at her upcoming show in March. She says she is secretly preparing a variety of creations reflecting the various channels each expression has taken, whether it’s a piece of furniture she has beautified or an interesting hairstyle she gave a friend, while also attempting to “tell the story” of how each creation came into existence and what meaning it brings into the world.

Burke attributes much of her work’s meaning and message to two converging aspects: the subject matter she is personally dealing with and the ways in which the universe presents opportunities, interactions and exposure to certain objects to purposefully express what she is pondering or wrestling with.

She goes on to explain that a lot of what she personally has been going through revolves around the awakening of consciousness—consciousness about the environment, the self and about what’s inside people. Her subject matter is then reinforced by the ways in which she consciously selects found materials and objects in and through her environment and from inspired interactions presented to her in everyday life.

Along with her conscious decision to use recycled and found objects for art materials, Burke chooses to work with natural and organically produced tools.

In a holistic way, it only makes sense that as Burke attempts to bring beauty and wholeness to the world around her, she would see the seed of beauty in what may be perceived as trash to others—and to help bring restoration by shedding light on the beauty of what is, which adds to the storyline and connective element that reaches her audience.

Burke’s disposition and style of working also naturally lends itself to an entire lifestyle she embraces that is closely in tune with her environment in Yellow Springs.

“I draw a lot of inspiration from my community,” Burke says. “More so than if I lived anywhere else. I probably wouldn’t be driven to do what I do if I didn’t live here.”

Anna Burke’s Art by Ace exhibition will be featured March 18-April 10 at Yellow Springs Art Council, 111 Corry St. in Yellow Springs. For more information, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Tara Pettit at

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