Eduardo Cruz Torres is turning garbage into works of art through Metro's Glean program.

COURTESY PHOTO - Hillsboros Eduardo Cruz Torres is one of several artists chosen by Metro for this years Glean program. The artists use trash to create works of art to showcase overconsumption.Eduardo Cruz Torres loves getting his hands dirty.

For months, the Hillsboro artist has been scavenging for materials at the Metro Central Transfer Station garbage dump in Northwest Portland.

He's looking for inspiration.

Cruz is a featured artist in this year's Glean project, a Metro-run art exhibition that challenges local artists to create works of art made entirely of trash.

His work will be on display at Portland's Furthermore Gallery, 421 N.E. 10th Ave., from Friday, Aug. 3, through Aug. 25, beginning with a reception this Friday at 6 p.m.

Since April, Cruz and four other Portland-area artists have been gathering materials and supplies at the transfer station, which takes in most of the garbage and recycling for the Portland area. Everything the artists used for the project, they found it at the transfer station.

Now in its eighth year, the program is meant to raise awareness about over consumption and inspire new ways to look at trash as a resource, according to Metro organizers.

Though he has never had any formal art education, Cruz has been an artist all his life. For Cruz, making art is the most natural thing in the world, he said.

"My artwork is always spontaneous," he said. "I don't plan it, it always flows. I just sit down and do it."

For years, Cruz only worked with black ink, but in 2014, he started metal etching and wood burning, two entirely different mediums.

"I think I was ready to move forward and experience another art medium and other materials and other areas," he said. "When I started doing etching, it was out of nowhere. I just had a piece of coded sheet metal in my hands, and I just started etching it with a metal scribe."

Cruz's pieces for the Glean program combine metal etching and wood burning.

"I've been working with copper, and that's something I would have never tried if I hadn't gotten into Glean," he said. "It's expanded my ideas. It's amazing what you can find."

Cruz's art is influenced by his Aztec heritage, he said. The intricate patterns and imagery in his etchings are often compared to ancient Mesoamerican motifs. For Friday's reception, Cruz plans to perform an Aztec dance and drumming performance with his musical group, Huehca Omeyocan.

COURTESY PHOTO - Cruzs work will be on display at Portlands Furthermore Gallery starting this week. 'You can find anything you're looking for'

The Glean program is a partnership between local arts nonprofit Crackedpots, along with Metro — which manages the greater Portland area's garbage and recycling system — and Recology, a company that manages garbage and recycling facilities.

The program has been on Cruz's radar for a few years before he applied this year. Amy Wilson, the Glean project manager, approached Cruz at the Latino Artists Exchange exhibition in Portland a few years ago and invited him to apply, but it didn't feel right until this year, he said.

Now that he's here, he can't look back.

"You get to see so many cool, interesting materials that will make you say, 'Wow, I can do something with this,'" he said. "Having access to all those materials and artifacts gives you the opportunity to explore and experience and grow in ways that you wouldn't at an art supply store."

Cruz said he has enjoyed every aspect of Glean so far. He loves the message the challenge conveys to the community, as well as gathering materials at the transfer station, the lessons it has taught him and getting to work with the other artists.

"This is such a cool program that has been helping me realize new things and to grow and push and look beyond things," he said.

Cruz learned to keep an open mind every time he went to the transfer station to look for materials.

"You'd be surprised about the findings at the transfer station," he said. "You can find anything you're looking for, but even if you have an idea of what you want, that idea can change."

Cruz is also incredibly appreciative of the opportunity to work with the other four artists: Carolyn Hazel Drake, Liz Grotyohann, Benjamin Mefford and Brittany Rudolf.

"You get the opportunity in the program to know four other artists with completely different personalities and different skills, and you share information and time with them, Cruz said. "I am really lucky to be a part of Glean this year, because I get to meet and know four other amazing artists and human beings."

Above all, Cruz said he likes Glean's message of recycling and repurposing.

"The fact that they were able to create this program for artists to deliver this message to the community about repurposing, recycling and making better decisions when it comes to dispose what you consider trash is what I appreciate most about this program," he said.

Cruz plans to continue to promoting the idea of repurposing long after the Glean exhibit closes. He even said that this change in how he looks at garbage has changed his life.

"Now, I can go and tell people that what they are throwing away isn't really garbage. You can turn it into art," he said. "What a beautiful way to make people aware of repurposing, which is now very important in my life. This, for me, was a life-changing event."

By Holly Bartholomew
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