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What a dump! An artist's view from the junk pile

At waste management company Recology San Francisco, artists turn recycled trash into treasures.

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Leslie Katz
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1 of 9 James Martin/CNET

Scavenging for supplies

Carrie Hott (left) and Cybele Lyle, artists in residence at waste disposal company Recology San Francisco, scavenge the public dump for art supplies.

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Reams of rubbish

Participants in Recology San Francisco's artist-in-residence program have 24-hour access to a junk pile that typically weighs in at about 200 tons per day.

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In the studio

Resident artist Nathan Byrne, an art student at San Francisco State University, stands in his Recology studio, a shipping container stuffed with scavenged supplies like a camper top, a cathode-ray TV, broken mirrors, theater chairs from the '40s, a basketball, stacks of books, spools of thread and a taxidermied moth.

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New way of creating

Scavenging for supplies can be a complete reversal of the artists' process. They don't know in advance what their materials will be. Instead, the serendipity of what they discover in a junk pile informs their art.

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Tons and tons of trash

Spending so much time at the dump -- Recology prefers to call it the Public Disposal and Recycling Area -- has left its mark on the artists. "It's made me not want to buy things so much," says Cybele Lyle, shown here with a bolt of fabric she recovered from the junk pile.

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E-waste landscape

Carrie Hott has created an e-waste soundscape from piles of consumer electronics she found at the dump.

"Reuse and recycling have always been important to me," she says. "But being at Recology and seeing how many reusable items are thrown away every day has shifted my view, and has definitely strengthened my belief in reuse."

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Electronics exposed

For her installation "Summer Night Forever," Carrie Hott reveals the inner workings of machines used to play recorded sound. The gadgets remain functional and can play audio through scavenged speakers.

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That used to be garbage?

Cybele Lyle's room-size installation, titled "Are You Me or Are You a Stranger," is dominated by found fabrics and household items such as flooring, blinds and a bookshelf.

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Great garbage find

Nathan Byrne is constructing a series of 12 sculptures that reference science and nature. He calls these neon lights pulled from the garbage pile "the find of a lifetime."

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