Ryan Bogan creates award-winning art from items others leave behind

by Pamela Young, Published August 30, 2011

Ryan Bogan

"One man's trash is another man's treasure," is more than just a saying for Livonia native Ryan Bogan, who recently graduated from Eastern Michigan University.

Bogan, 23, loves dumpsters and the trash they contain. Aluminum scraps, parts of an electric typewriter, glass vials and hinges are just some of the junk he's found and recycled into award-winning art.

Some people think he's crazy for his passion for junk. That passion, however, has led to something big. As a result of his artistic creativity, Bogan is one of only 10 young artists in the United States-and the only one from Michigan-to win a 2011 Windgate Fellowship from the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design in North Carolina.

The $15,000 award, one of the nation's largest and most competitive art awards, helps outstanding graduating college seniors establish their artistic practice. More than 100 students from 70 universities applied.

Bogan seems to have wisdom beyond his years and the potential of being a noteworthy artist, said Gretchen Otto, an EMU art professor who nominated him, and is an expert metalsmith herself.

"This is a special honor. Ryan competed against more than one-hundred other applicants, many from art schools with national reputations," professor Gretchen Otto said. "His work is strong, with a balance between content and craftsmanship. I knew he had a chance for the competition. It's a tribute to EMU's Art Department to have students work at such a high level of competency."

Although Bogan has always been interested in art, he admits it took time to decide on his specialty.

"I like miniature things and I'm fascinated by worthless things, things that people think are trash," he said. "I can't draw and I tried ceramics. I then had an eye-opening moment in Dr. Otto's class. I had fought against things until I found this process and style. My whole work is based on found objects."

For more information on EMU's art department, go to http://art.emich.edu.  To see an interview with Ryan, visit our videos page.

Pamela Young

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