A San Marcos local is demonstrating how one man’s trash can become another man’s treasure.
Robert Schmid, a local artist and manager of A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery, has been searching for artistic inspiration where others might overlook it. While kayaking, Schmid scans the San Marcos River and its banks for flip-flops, driftwood, glass and other miscellaneous pieces that may fit what he calls “found objects” art.
The part-time artist has collected more than 2,000 shreds of lost footwear over the last few years of his recover-and-create pastime.
In 2010, Schmid featured his installation, The Forest of Lost Soles, in the San Marcos nature center. He has also stockpiled enough driftwood to finish his latest piece, named the Four Gar of Texas.
“I wanted to find a way to tell people that flip-flops aren’t the best footwear for the river,” he said. “I had hoped to promote my work as more than just a novelty by using what someone had tossed aside in the water.”
Schmid attributed the initial spark that led him to a passion of artistic expression to his wife. She had encouraged him to take up woodcarving classes about 20 years ago. Since then, he has started doing watercolors and constructing abstract pieces such as the flip-flop installation.
“I’ve been exposed to art and the spontaneity of the process for a while now and I’ve learned that it takes a lot more than a pretty picture,” Schmid said. “You have to use a certain part of your imagination and soul to drive art, to be art.”
The artist went on to mention how a significant amount of the originality in his work derives from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist Way. He said the novel instilled in him how the idea of worldly inspiration creates a sense of possibility in almost every walk of life.
“I like to take my grandkids on walks down by the river, and when we do, everything I notice around us, an old bicycle, a crooked stick, broken glass, I see as something that could be used for art,” Schmid said.
In the future, Schmid would like to find somewhere he can display his work where it would be appreciated.
Until then, the casual shoe collector said he plans to continue doing his part to keep the river clean while studying works by famous Texas artists and developing more opinions of his own.
“One thing that bugs me about art is how if you’re going to make something so damn abstract, like a painted-black wooden board, then you have to explain it,” he said. “Especially if you’re going to price it for $10,000, because your ‘average Joe’ trying to make a living isn’t going to appreciate that due to the price. So, tell people about your work and why you did it. Maybe someone out there will appreciate your experience with the piece as much as you did.”