Local Artist and RAC Grantee Uses Plastic Waste to Create Earth Day-Inspired Art Exhibit

April 19, 2024

She collected her family’s plastic waste for two years. She cut and shaped it for another three years. Now, artist Adrienne Outlaw is bringing her creations to life at Consumed, an art exhibit addressing plastic pollution. Coinciding with Earth Day, Outlaw will kick off the exhibition with a family-friendly event at her studio from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 20 at 3115 Locust Street in St. Louis.  

Five years in the making, Consumed represents a very personal journey for Outlaw. “I’m literally showing my family’s garbage to the world to encourage a conversation about it,” she said. “It stuns me how much plastic we use every day.”  

Outlaw has long addressed issues of global consumerism and its impact on health, but it was a summer spent in southeast Asia in 2019 that turned her attention to plastic pollution. During this trip, I saw the global impact of our plastic waste,” Outlaw said. “When I got back home, I got right to work. St. Louis is critically important to solving these issues due to its proximity to the Mississippi.” The Mississippi River is the drainage system for 40 percent of the United States. It carries plastic pollution to the Gulf and beyond, where it degrades into unrecoverable microplastics.  

“What I really want to accomplish with [the work] is to be joyful about it. I think people can get really ‘doom and gloom’ with it and try to blame a person or corporation. What I want to show is wacky, creative and aesthetically beautiful works that you can make with absolutely, positivity free material,” said Outlaw.  

In 2015, Outlaw moved from Nashville to St. Louis. She purchased and renovated the building on Locust Street to contribute to the revitalization efforts in Midtown and have a space large enough to accommodate groups for her social practice work. Consumed is supported by a grant from the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis (RACSTL).  

Outlaw has exhibited in galleries and museums across the United States and abroad in Europe, Asia, and Africa. More than two dozen museums have exhibited her work at such institutions as MASS MOCA, Islip Art Museum, and MOCA Fort Collins. Galleries across the United States have awarded her solo shows. Her work has been featured across all media and fine art publications such as Art in America, Art Papers, and World Sculpture News. Along with RACSTL’s grant, Outlaw’s work has received additional grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Andy Warhol Foundation, The Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement and Critical Mass.  

A portion of print sales at the Earth Day opening will be donated to Missouri River Relief.  

Photo credit: Dave Moore