Napa Valley College Art Gallery
Contact: Fain Hancock
office: 707 253 3203

Napa, CA September 20, 2007
(Photo Opportunity)
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Napa Valley College Art Gallery presents Plastics Recycled: Sculpture by Mike Wittels, an installation of heated and shaped plastic. The artist heats and shapes plastic saved and collected, some of which is 20 years old. The individual pieces are combined into freestanding sculptures or attached to a wall to create what Benicia artist Mike Wittels calls moveable paintings. The exhibit is at the Napa Valley College Art Gallery, 1360 Menlo Avenue, Napa, CA. The opening reception is Thursday, October 11, 5-7 PM. The show runs October 11- December 12. The gallery is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 2-6PM. Admission is free.

For the past year and a half he has collected all the plastic that comes as packaging from things he buys, mostly food, as well as plastic items discarded by others and left in the recycle area of his studio building.

Mike Wittels uses a variable temperature industrial heat gun and other tools. Because heat-induced changes in the materials happen unpredictably, he has to concentrate completely, varying the distance, angle of attack and temperature of the heat gun. Each type of plastic behaves differently -- dripping like melting wax, shrinking, bubbling, toasting or pooling, for example. After he is satisfied with what he is working on, he pins it to the studio wall or places it on a shelf as a three-dimensional element. Some are combined into an assemblage or fastened to flat supports to make paintings.

“I like the idea of re-using something,” said Mike Wittels. “In the case of plastic, so much of it is used briefly and discarded: outer ‘cellophane’ wrappings of packages, food containers, Styrofoam, utensils, razors, cups, straws, water bottles, and so on. Speaking of bottles of water, did you know that making a plastic bottle uses up twice as much water as that bottle ends up containing? Plastic manufacture accounts for the second largest consumption of oil, after transportation: just to make all of the bottle-water containers sold in the US during last year used 17 billion of oil. It's big business, too: The sales for bottled water are estimated to be between $50 and $100 billion a year and rising. I like the fact that my work may make people more aware. But mainly I am using the plastic because, like Sir Edmund Hilary said of Mt Everest, it's there. In the end, the important thing is the art.”

Images of his work can be viewed at
Mike Wittels is available for interview, at 707 746 5516 or mike at

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