The first thing you notice are the twigs rising out from the top of a piece of weather-beaten wood, then a round ivory face and one long slender arm. On top of the arm rests a pair of wings. A small egg lies at the bottom; the delicate features of a face are slightly exposed. But what your eye cannot tell you is that nearly all of the materials for "Waiting to Hatch" were found as trash.
A native Coloradan, Caron O'Neil has always had a passion for art and nature. Recently retired as a park ranger in Bear Creek Canyon due to park budget issues, O'Neil's life has undergone many changes.
"I didn't have any neighbors for 30 years and I lived in the wilderness with animals. It's been a life change, moving into a neighborhood with people around me," she says.
While working as a ranger, O'Neil developed an eye for refuse.
"I was always looking for fun things that other people didn't see the potential in that I did," she says. Among the treasures, she regularly picks up rusty metal, worn wood and dried bones. "I'd rather have things that are weathered and not all fancy, painted and new."
O'Neil was well known in the canyon for her recycled art and received help collecting materials. "I would come home and find wonderful little rusty gifts at my door," she says.
The upcoming Commonwheel Artists Co-op exhibit, Justifiable Chaos, features O'Neil, along with Belinda Chambers and Jeremy Grant, all of whom employ found objects and recycled materials. To highlight the chaos element, the artists are working on three collaborative pieces.
"All of us will start a piece then rotate. It will go through three different changes and the third time is the finished piece," explains O'Neil.
Though accepting the finish on her career has been difficult — she says she wasn't really ready to retire — O'Neil has an outlook that benefits an artist who relies on finding beauty in the discarded: optimism.
"You just surround yourself with inspiration, things that you're attracted to, things that make you feel good, things that express your personality, and then it all comes together," she says.