The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be

When visiting the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio with my cousins June and Nancy, a huge sculpture immediately captured my attention.

It dominated the back wall of the entry hall, a 3D rainbow of recycled paper, cardboard, and plastic.

The sculptor, Lisa Hoke, titled the piece “The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be” in a nod to baseball player Yogi Berra, who was famous for employing the English language in surprising and humorous ways.  I don’t know exactly what Lisa intended when she chose that title for this piece, but it seems appropriate.

This work of art features colorful patterns created by discarded packaging of consumer goods, mostly paper and plastic.

Trash, really.

But Lisa has mindfully and creatively transformed refuse into something beautiful– and useful, too—for art satisfies the senses and stimulates thoughts and feelings.

Here’s what this piece brought to my mind: We are trashing our planet.  Landfills are overflowing and oceans have become dumping grounds.  Imagine if we could do what Lisa has done, only in our real lives and on a larger scale–by making less garbage, of course, but finding ways to make the most of it.

Our deck is made of recycled plastic.  Paper products like toweling, books, and stationary are made of recycled paper.  Instead of adding countless plastic grocery bags to the landfill, cloth shopping bags can be used again and again.

There’s no doubt that Yogi was right—the future ain’t what it used to be.  But wouldn’t it be a fine thing to recycle the old future into a better one for ourselves and our children?

All photos and words c 2013Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Sculpture.



  1. brushstroke5 says:

    What insight! What photography! Love the combination! -linda

    From my Android phone on T-Mobile. The first nationwide 4G network.

    1. Hi Linda,
      Thank you for the high tech visit! I appreciate your taking the time to share some great comments.

  2. Terrific idea — reusing is actually creating double! Happy Independence Day to you!

    1. I like that expression, Mary. I hope your Fourth of July was a good one too.

  3. Amy says:

    It is very worrisome. Great post, Naomi!

    1. It is terribly worrisome, Amy. I appreciate your encouragement.

  4. Love public art and recycled art. I’ve never been to San Antonio but have heard it’s great- hope to one day!

    1. I particularly enjoyed the River Walk. I hope you get there one day.

    2. And don’t forget The Alamo!

  5. Jamie Dedes says:

    A much needed message, nicely understated. Quite wonderful.
    Happy holiday weekend.

    1. Thank you, Jamie. I hope you have a good one too. Thinking of you. I loved your poem, Vision Quest. Read it again tonight to my daughter.

  6. What an innocent statement, “…But wouldn’t it be a fine thing to recycle the old future into a better one for ourselves and our children?”

    I Like your spin on this: direct, but without finger pointing. “Wouldn’t” is sometimes a nice, soft word–also not pushy.

    1. Oh, thank you, Tess. I struggled with this one, not wanting to preach, but this was what the art brought to mind.

  7. scillagrace says:

    Reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose, replant, replanet!

    1. Repeat! Yes, yes, yes!

  8. katzmcmullen says:

    I vote for replaneting, too.

    1. Hi Katz,
      Isn’t that a great word? Thanks for stopping by, and taking the time to comment!

  9. Ruth says:

    Naomi, I especially loved your blog about recycling and this huge piece of art. It fits in with my values, yet it also set me to thinking in ways I can do better. Love you.

    1. Thank you, Ruth. Love you too!!!

  10. Lovely pics and yes….I agree with you!!

    We love taking the Amtrak train to SA. SOOO much to do there. And we walk or take the trolley everywhere we go, logging MANY miles a day….and enjoying every step. Happy 4th, friend!

    1. The same to you, Paula. It was a fun trip, mostly because I was connecting with cousins who knew how to have a good time. So many stories to tell, new cousins to meet, and we are already trying to figure out how to make it happen again.

      1. How awesome to spend time with your cousins!!! I’m guessing there was little rest, but lots of laughter. Love it 😉

  11. restlessjo says:

    What a brilliant use for those packagings! I wish I was creative- such fun I could have 🙂 Love the concept!
    Try to do my bit, Naomi.

    1. Hi Jo,
      I think you are very creative, and you exercise your creativity through your beautiful photos and writing!
      Thanks for the visit, and for sharing your comment.

  12. This is a lovely post and a wonderful work of art to share.
    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Paula,
      Thank you for your visit, and your very kind response.

  13. footsy2 says:

    Wonderful piece of work – altho I wouldn’t like to keep it dust free 🙂

    1. Oh, my gosh, Footsy. Dusting that would be a proper piece of work! Thank you for making me smile.

  14. I love recycling and try to do as much as I can wherever I can. It’s a learning process outside of the bins the garbage company gives you. Using the imagination to think of other ways to recycle. All of our garden boxes are either made from the wood we tore out of our barn or old horse water troughs. They give a very rustic appearance to the back porch. And, we have a rain catching system that feeds the garden. I live about 10 miles south of Moore, Oklahoma, where in May was hit bad with an EF5 tornado. It’s sad that they are dumping all the scrape wood and brick from the homes and not even thinking of recycling it. I understand insurance laws and all, but that’s a lot of brick! 😦 I wish the laws could be changed.

    1. Hi Angela,
      Garden boxes are a great idea, as well as channeling your rain into the garden. I hope you fared all right through the tornado. Oklahoma would be a very scary place to live during tornado season.

  15. nutsfortreasure says:

    Spending 15 years haul huge heavy trailers of trash from Boston to points all over New England to bury at first then eventually burn I know this story all to well even my cell phone from sprint is recycled 🙂

    1. Hi Eunice,
      Wow! You’ve been there, done that! I appreciate your sharing your story. It’s always good to hear from you.

      1. nutsfortreasure says:

        Your posts bring out so many memories of my life sorry for posting the story on your post but I DO KNOW GARBAGE 🙂

      2. nutsfortreasure says:

        Your posts bring out so many memories of my life sorry for posting the story on your post but I DO KNOW GARBAGE 🙂

      3. Dear Eunice, I LOVE when you share your stories with me and my readers. It’s always best when there is an exchange!

      4. nutsfortreasure says:

        I do not look for private email links sorry, you have so many stories as I do 🙂 again I will try to reply and keep it short and sweet and fixed computer issues so now when I hit a letter on the keyboard maybe it will SHOW UP 🙂

  16. Rosa says:

    share your opinion re Recycling 😀

  17. My Tropical Home says:

    Lovely post Naomi, and it resonates with my heart and mind’s beliefs about stewardship of the earth. Homeschooling has allowed me to teach this first hand to the kids. Yet, I know I am still throwing away a lot more than I’m recycling or re-purposing. If only I could recycle everything that enters my home, it’s just too small to store them all. Still, I agree with you, the future isn’t what it used to be, that was a great spin on the words, by the way. Reminds me of Wall-E 😉
    Have a blessed weekend, and I hope your 4th of July was a colorful one 🙂
    Love, Mary

  18. Just goes to show you can make art out of just about anything. A right brain person creating and YOU a right brained person writing about it.

    1. Hi Jo,
      Thank you for that very kind response! I appreciate the visit. I am just back in town, and look forward to catching up my blogging! I look forward to visiting The Sundog Drift. With such a good eye for artistic beauty in a photo, you must be a very right-brained person.

  19. niasunset says:

    Great post, fascinated me. Thank you dear Naomi, have a nice weekend, love, nia

    1. Hi Nia,
      Thank you for the visit, for taking the time to share your comment.

  20. So good to see someone putting junk to such colourful use. I’m all for recycling, and our local council is fantastic at helping this happen. They’ve issued everybody in the town with three different coloured wheelie bins, and one smaller bin, to accomodate this.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      That is really great to hear. In Seattle we have recycling at the curb. In Juneau, my sister has to fill up the car and haul stuff out to the recycling center out in the valley. She always does, but I’m sure there a lot of people who don’t. It helps to have it encouraged by the powers that be!
      Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  21. diannegray says:

    What an amazing piece of art, Naomi 😀 I was reading somewhere yesterday that there is a pool of rubbish in the ocean that is larger than the USA. How hideous is that!!! We need more wake-up calls like Lisa’s piece to open our eyes to what we’re doing to this beautiful planet.

    1. Hi Dianne,
      I’d heard of a giant growing island of junk in the ocean, but I had no idea how humongous it was! Then there is hole in the ozone, which just gets larger and larger. I don’t know what it will take for governments and people to take this more seriously. Thanks for adding your voice.

  22. Kavi says:

    H Naomi, its distressing to see what’s happening to our Earth. Gross negligence, indifference, apathy…& yet in the midst of these trashy qualities there are bravehearts struggling to get the normalcy back to Earth. Posts such as yours are key to driving change.

    1. Hi Kavi,
      It is scary, and it’s happening so fast. I appreciate your adding your voice to this issue. I think you’re right that apathy is our worst offender.

  23. ShimonZ says:

    Your wish for some rational way of dealing with garbage reminded me of something they did in Tel Aviv a few years ago. They turned the biggest garbage pits into a national park which is really beautiful… it’s sort of like a small mountain, with trails and parks, and a lot of greenery… really worth seeing.

    1. Hi Shimon,
      That is a wonderful story! What a creative way of dealing with it! I would love to learn more about that.
      Thanks so much for sharing an inspiring story.

  24. Elyse says:

    I’m on board — I’m a strong believer in recycling. But — be sure to was those cloth grocery bags. They get all kinds of bacteria.

    1. Dear Elyse,
      That is something that wouldn’t have occurred to me! So it’s definitely a good idea to get reusable bags that you can toss in the wash.
      Thank you for sharing that, Elyse, and for stopping by.

      1. Elyse says:

        I got it from a grocery clerk actually, which made me go ewww!

  25. adinparadise says:

    Brilliant sculptures and your message is so true. Recycling should be a way of life. The alternative is so bad for all of us and for future generations. I wish more people realised this. Great photos, Naomi. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Sylvia. It seemed to me that we were making great progress for a while, and then we lost momentum. Time to kickstart the green machine.

  26. Darla Welchel says:

    Cool. But I wonder on a piece like this if the trash was actually discarded or if she got new pieces from the manufactures to make her art. The pieces all look to uniform in color to be trash. Either way, it pretty. Great pics.

    1. Hi Darla,
      Good question! I suppose she could have bought some of the products for their packaging, and surely she acquired cardboard popcorn boxes from a movie theater or some other business, because used ones would be way too messy. But the idea she conveyed is important. Thanks so much for the visit, and for sharing your thoughts. It’s always good to hear from you.

  27. How fascinating Naomi! I’m a huge fan of unconventional art made of unexpected materials. Thanks for your great insights. All the best, Terri

    1. Hi Terri,
      Thank you so much for your very kind response!
      Warm wishes,

  28. Madhu says:

    To see beauty in trash in the first place is a gift! Thanks for sharing this beautiful artwork Naomi. And your thought provoking insights 🙂

    1. Dear Madhu,
      Thank you for your visit, and for taking the time to share your thoughts. Just got back from a trip, and am way behind on my blogging. I look forward to catching up.

  29. pattisj says:

    Lisa’s work is very nice. Now if I can remember to take those cloth bags from the house to the car/from the car to the store…

    1. Hi Patti,
      I know what you mean about the Bag-in-the-Car Syndrome. I love that our local co-op posts signs in the parking lot reminding people on the way in to go back to their car and get the bags they have forgotten! Thanks so much for the visit.

  30. Penelope says:

    Fantastic idea and great photos.

    1. Hi Penelope,
      Thanks so much for the very generous response to this post.

  31. Great post! That is such an interesting piece of art! Love the use of recycled things to create a piece this interesting.

    1. Hi Janaline,
      Thanks so much for your visit. Am enjoying following your adventures on your blog.

  32. LyannV says:

    Definitely an amazing piece of art – thank you for sharing! I agree with your sentiments about the planet and recycling.
    I live out in the country, and on a recent visit to town my oldest teen daughter noticed recycling bins by all the houses. She asked why we don’t have those out in the country – we are still within city limits – and I really had no answer…except, the city probably figures it isn’t cost effective to send trucks out to collect recyclable materials from rural residents.
    There used to be so much news about recycling, but it doesn’t seem to be as popular – or publicized – topic as it used to be. Does it seem this way to you?
    I came across an interesting story recently – I’ll try to find it again and share it somehow – about a child asking her grandmother about recycling. The grandmother pointed out that ‘way back when’ they used glass bottles for milk, which were collected by the milkman, cleaned, and redistributed. That was only one example of how the ‘good old days’ probably were ‘greener’ than modern days.
    Thank you again for sharing – and for visiting my blog. I’m pleased to meet you!

    1. Hi Lyann,
      I’m pleased to meet you too! Thanks for the follow; I enjoyed my visit to your blog and look forward to following you too.
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment–I also think we probably have gone backwards in so many ways. Maybe we can do better, and go from a culture of disposable everything to more reusable goods.

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