Nancy Waller in her Wasteland Mfg. Studio
On a recent Thursday night I brought Thai food and an open mind to Wasteland Mfg. and Museum, an artist quarter and gift shop nestled in the historic King Field neighborhood in Minneapolis. I had no idea what to expect of the evening. The previous night I met Nancy Waller as she was headed home with a "chest-burster" puppet attached to one hand and now here I was walking up to her tiny neighborhood studio space, instantly greeted by Nancy in a fabulous cat outfit. No joke.
25 yr old Giant potted tree overarching the candlelit table.
She escorted me to a high-top table with candles, chopsticks and steaming tea shaded by a giant 25-year-old potted plant, which stood erect with the help of a missing ceiling tile.
Tea candles and Thai Food
Nancy possesses a strong embodiment of energy and an artist's lifestyle that I envy. Nancy has not given up on her journey or her strong point of view: that the world is a wasteland, and she is here to enlighten and pay homage to what has been destroyed by humans - with a twist of humor!
Nancy uses humor to get her message across about the the intersection of man vs nature.
To keep her vision at Wasteland Mfg. alive she has held down 38 part time jobs to date. I asked how Wasteland's concept started. "My first memory I had was a dream," Nancy said." There was a hazy skyline, crescent moon and a giant bear." In Nancy's dream the bear approaches her house and looks into her bedroom through a porthole window." I see this dream as a sign to bear witness to what is going on in the world." And that is what Wasteland Mfg. and Museum is all about.
This is one of Nancy's favorite pieces of work, and still in progress, a 'Unicandle'.
Nancy opened Wasteland Mfg. and Museum 25 years ago after she graduated from MCAD in the fall of 1989. It was a place for research and development and to sell products. "Some people are not sure what this place is. They knew my art used recycled objects that I would find in alleys, so they would drop off their junk." Someone even dropped off 5,000 bottle caps from Royal Bohemian Beer from the Duluth Brewing and Malting Company, which she made into little boxes.
Example of using recycled objects...
From time to time Nancy will get commissioned to work on unique local projects. One in particular was for the MIA. It took her 6 months of work in her tiny unheated South Minneapolis studio, which lacks plumbing. "I work from 3-7pm because that is when the neighbor's heat kicks on, and it helps," Nancy said. The MIA project was a huge success! She designed and built an MIA themed carnival with events such as Bowling for Brancusi and Dali Fishing."Imagine the CEO of Cargill walking around the MIA laughing with a giant plush snake around his neck. It was hilarious." The Carnival went on for over ten years raising millions of dollars, while Nancy's work went tragically unnoticed. What could have been an amazing spotlight on a wonderful local artist, turned into a giant company taking advantage of the "little guy". Using humor Nancy regularly protested; once for kicks she showed up in a giant egg outfit and a bacon shawl. This bizarre but HILARIOUS stunt, like the cat outfit, demonstrates Nancy’s unique personality and point of view.
PROOF! Giant binder of MIA's carnival night pieces she handmade. This one is called 'Dali Fishing'.
Nancy struggles to get her name and powerful message out in the digital age. "So how do you hashtag?" Nancy asked. "Is it literally a ‘hashtag’ and that's it? Unbelievable," she said as I pulled out my iPhone and began scrolling through my Creepy Girl Travels social media branches. I uploaded an image of her and hashtagged #Wastelandmfg. She smiled. Nancy has been told by others that she needs to show darker and more captivating images. Her response? "I have worked for environmental groups. I just cannot deal with the bummer message. I want to study the intersection of man vs nature and use humor. I always want to become a better person."
Card rack at gift store: Someday she will complete drawing every endangered species known
She plans on re-opening her beautiful oddity museum to the public this spring (2015). Some of the items for display will be a magnificent wall of hand drawn with pen and ink, endangered animals. The museum will also showcase sculptures of Minnesota's mutant frogs, yes they have erect male parts. Creepy Girl Travels has this place bench-marked a must see in support of true local art with fighting grit.
At the end of the evening I was given a 'Hero Metal". Nancy feels that although we cannot make huge impacts, we can make small daily ones.