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Reduce, Reuse, Re-art
A recycler finds an artful upside.

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

How can we derive value from everyone’s waste?”

Chip Gianakos is asking the question. And answering it. “A new genre of discovered art” is his solution.

An amorphous pile of discarded industrial materials sits in this businessman-turned-artist’s workroom – dozens of chrome-plated ball bearings, tens of multicolored circuit board panels that never made it to an assembly line, a few rusted chains. From that raw refuse come repurposed renderings – circuit board panels chemically distorted by the weather and treated further to bring out blue, green and purple whorls.

By day, Gianakos owns an industrial recycling company, Trans Industrial Material Systems. By night, he makes his labor-intensive pieces, such as coffee tables built out of discarded metal components and futuristic sandblasted sculptures accented by bright chrome edges. And, of course, those signature circuit board panels, which run $750 for a single or more than $7,500 for an entire wall installation.

Not in the market? Gianakos also shows around town. In February, his work was at Gallerie M at the InterContinental Hotel, and last fall, the Third Ward’s Gallery 218 featured it. Milwaukee’s Katie Gingrass Gallery will exhibit his panels in October.

Jason Altobelli, a Milwaukee artist who saw Gianakos’ show at Gallerie M, wrote in a review on his website that it “merged beautifully the organic and the technological.”

In a subsequent interview, Altobelli expounded on his thoughts: “It really struck me right away as completely unique, new and innovative.”

For Gianakos, it’s still “so new, not only for me, but for the market, too,” and he says his lack of traditional pedigree pushes him “to be more strategic to maximize the upside.” It’s led to relatively quick success from word-of-mouth marketing. And what he calls a social mission: “How can we institute more personal responsibility?”

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