Trash to Treasure by Trish
After leaving behind a retail sales position In California nearly two decades ago, Grand Coteau artist Trish Ransom found stability by giving junk a second life.
Gleefully lost in a story about escape – her escape, specifically, from the mundane – Trish Ransom steps outside her quaint place in Grand Coteau, into the world she’ll never leave while going on about the world she left behind.
It was the mid-1990s, she recites with a performer’s delivery. As a traveling rep for a major national department store, Ransom pulled in a good salary, lived in one of the more desirable locales in the country (the San Francisco Bay Area), surrounded herself with an interesting and devoted group of friends, and even kept the airline miles she accrued through business travel.
And yet, she wanted to leave.
“This is one of the tricks, and one of the tricks in life, is that you have to make yourself open and available,” Ransom says, leading to the lesson learned from her person journey. “A turtle never gets anywhere unless he sticks his …”
Ransom pauses, obviously not expecting what sounds like a rooster. She goes on, but it happens again.
And again, forcing an acknowledgment.
“Don’t even mention that,” Ransom says, laughing. “Whoever said life in the country is quiet didn’t know what they were talking about. And I’m definitely in the country.”
She enjoys all aspects of her art: from finding the items to assembling them.
Enthralled to be living in a small town in which the guy standing next to her at the post office is a Grammy Award nominee and the neighbors hold jam sessions on the porch, Ransom has found her niche in this artistic enclave through her “debris” art. From making bottle cap earrings and necklaces for a jewelry shop in 1999 – the “beginning of the beginning” Ransom says – Ransom’s recycled catalog now includes complex animal sculptures found in various Acadiana clubs, stores and restaurants, pieces made of stuff like empty Old Milwaukee bottles and any other odds and ends left by the curb by her aforementioned musician friends.
A regular at regional events like Festival International and just about every art market along Interstate 10, Ransom interacts with patrons who frequent her booth. Most are transfixed. First, from afar – admiring the overall beauty of the piece. Then, they step closer, curious to identify the anatomy of the art. As they do, Ransom says she steps right next to them, assuring that, yes, they’re right; this is all made out of junk.
“I’m a think-outside-the-box type of person,” she says. “It helps you look at the world in a different way, and in my case, look at materials in a different way. Where others see an old, gross bottle I’m blown away by its color. So because of that, when people think trash, they think Ransom. And I’m OK with that.”
Though it’s become her livelihood, Ransom didn’t relocate to Louisiana to deal recycled art. Honestly, she didn’t even have a real plan. Her flirtation with Acadiana bloomed in Oakland, California, of all places at the ever-bumping Eli’s Mile High Club on San Pablo Avenue. A social creature by nature, Ransom struck up a conversation with a bass player between sets one evening. He told her he played blues, jazz and zydeco. Ransom never heard of it. The bass player told her of a couple local zydeco festivities and suggested Ransom check it out.
And she did – both near and far. After dabbling in zydeco in the Bay, Ransom ventured down to the Bayou. She attended Festival Acadiens and was hooked.
“People invited you to sit down and talk to them, which was totally foreign to me – this openness, this inclusiveness,” Ransom remembers. “They told me about art shows and other events, and in my mind, I just thought, this is great. Man, I’ve died and gone to heaven.’”
In two years, heaven would be home. Ransom relocated from Northern California to South Louisiana.
“I hit my mid-life crisis,” Ransom says. “When you wake up every morning and the first words you utter are, ‘Oh crap, I have to go to work.’ You work to get a red Corvette so you can drive it 5 miles an hour during rush hour traffic. What’s the point? That’s dumb. So the more I thought about it, the more I was able to convince myself to move. And there was only one place to move. I was going to move to Louisiana and see what happens.”
What’s occurred is an accomplished (albeit unintentional) art career that’s afforded Ransom the liberty to never wear pantyhose, again – the main perk for leaving behind her retail paycheck out west. She now teaches school kids her unique formula of gathering garbage (the fun part) and assembling artistic creations (also the fun part).
Though Ransom shares her process, her style is by no means a finished product. Through the years, her work has evolved, now reaching a level of sophistication not usually associated with discarded beers. Where she once simply worked with what she found, Ransom now manipulates many of her materials through various measures and has begun applying paint to her pieces for added depth.
“People make an effort to have culture in other places. Here, it’s just a part of life,” Ransom says. “It’s how people live. They gather on porches to play music because they love to play, not to create a scene or cultural currency.
“And for me, it’s hard to even fathom that my art would be a small part of that culture,” Ransom continues. “I never really thought about it in that way. But I’m honored if it is.
To see more of Trish Ransom’s work