“Found material gives us the real color of where we live,” says Jean Michel Dissake, a visual artist from a Pongo village on the banks of the Mongo river in Cameroon, whose work is on display through Saturday, April 15, at the Scrap Exchange.
Artistry in Found Objects: Jean Michel Dissake
by: Leslie Rachael Nydick
Local artist Ann Gregory, a long-time friend of the Scrap Exchange, met Dissake in 2015 in Cameroon, while working on an arts project with children orphaned by AIDS. According to Gregory, Dissake’s love of found objects made him a perfect fit for the creative reuse mission of the Scrap Exchange. She became entranced by Dissake’s sculptures and arranged for his first show in the United States.
Speaking with Dissake and looking at his works, one feels the unity of all things, animate and inanimate. To Dissake, “ a human being IS a forest…everything is connected.” Bark, vines aluminum, termite dust, rubber, flowers are fodder for creation and (re)creation. Gliding gracefully around the gallery inside the Scrap Exchange, Dissake traces a curve on his sculpture, then touches the same curve on his painting on the wall. “This is the same form, different dimensions…it is all one,” he says. He chooses which objects to use in his works because they “call” to him. A piece of metal has a vibrational energy, as does a hyacinth petal, or a piece of wood.
To Dissake, found objects not only connect dimensions and environments, but people across generations and cultures. Dissake’s inspiration came from the forest and the riverbanks of his native Cameroon. His memories of grandparents drinking water from vines inspire his use of natural objects. His art is inspired by his ancestors, and also by artists from around the world-Picasso, Calder, and others. He sees trees as empowering women to embrace their life-giving power, just as scraps of metal “come to him”, allowing him to gather the discarded parts of our lives and create a new “whole”, a painting or a sculpture whose texture is so palpable that it calls out to the audience.
Which is why Durham, the City of Trees and the home of The Scrap Exchange, is the perfect match for his first show in the U.S.A. “Cameroun: L’Élan Vital“.
Come to the Cameron Gallery in the Scrap Exchange on April 15 from 1-5. Enjoy a visual feast and the final day of an amazing exhibit by a unique artist!