This week on Inside Appalachia, we look back at a shocking crime near the Appalachian Trail and speak to the author of a book that re-examines the case. We also sample a beloved Lenten staple made in Charleston, West Virginia. It’s a Yugoslavian fish stew that has a little bit of everything. And we talk with the poet laureate of Blair County, Pennsylvania, who invented the demi-sonnet.
Two West Virginians Join Artists Across the Globe to Reimagine Hubcaps as Art
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Janice Summers-Young is one of two West Virginian artists who were selected for a new exhibit at The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Virginia. The exhibit, called Second Time Around: The Hubcap as Art, features 287 artists from 36 different countries and opened yesterday.
Young lives in the community of Queen Shoals, about a mile from the Elk River, right on the line between Kanawha and Clay Counties. By day, she and her husband Terry work for their construction business. Most weekends they spend hiking, camping, and collecting materials that Young uses in collages that are on display throughout their home.
“I’ve always loved art, and I’ve always done some form of art, and tried to make my whole life a kind of art,” said Young.
When Young and her husband began to build their home, they discovered fossils in the rocks that they dug out of the dirt. So they decided to use the fossilized stones to build the exterior of their home.
“The area had been coal mined quite a bit, some years back. We started building our house here, we started hand-picking our stones from where we had dug here, the excavation, the stones we turned up, and also stones along the creek bank, because they’re rich in fossils. And I also wanted it to look like this house fit here,” said Young.
Young’s art, like her home, also includes objects from nature, from wasp nests that are preserved with porcelain, to pieces of driftwood that are constructed into circular collages, inspired by whirlpools she finds in rivers.
She also finds imaginative ways to incorporate pieces of trash that other people dump in the woods, like using scrap wire to shape into trees.
Her work drew the attention of Pennsylvania artist Ken Marquis, founder of the Landfill Arts Project. He invited Young to submit a piece of art for a new exhibit, which opened on September 7th. Over 1,000 artists from around the world were given a hubcap. Each of them repurposed their hubcap in their own way. Young was one of a few hundred artists whose piece was selected for the exhibit.
“When I got the hubcap, the first thing that entered my mind was the driftwood piece, inside the hubcap. I’ve seen so many hubcaps in the river. And I’ve watched them pop off the hill and roll down into the river.
And there’s swirlholes where the whirlpools land, and they’re circular. And they’ll have little bits of wood or stones collect inside of them, said Young.”
The Landfill Arts Project organized the exhibit to help encourage the public to think creatively about re-purposing old materials. What one person might consider trash, artists like Janice Young see as materials that can be used to create.
“I thought it was a really really neat project that’s gonna have that many people from all around participating in something that I’m passionate about. You know, just not wasting so much and trying to reuse as much as possible. No, we can’t all be environmental saints, but any little thing that we can do all adds up eventually,” said Young.
Young says she doesn’t consider herself an environmentalist. But as a West Virginian artist, she does feels inspired by the delicate beauty of the mountains and the rivers. Often, it’s a beauty that she thinks is abused.
When she sees trash in the river, she picks it up, and tries to turn it into art. Now, that art will be on display in a museum, surrounded by the works of artists from across the world. All 287 of them are tied together by the willingness to create– out of the waste that most people call trash.
Young and another West Virginian artist, Romney Shelton Collins, will both have their hubcap art on display at The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Virginia through next March. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 10-4.
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On July 28, 2022 — the day of the flood — James and Ruby Boggs had about four and a half feet of water rushing through their two-story house. They live in an old coal camp called Millstone. It sits on the North Fork of the Kentucky River, and it was one of the communities hit hard by the flood.