Toy Sculptor Uses Recyclables to Create Political Artworks

June 19, 2024

2 Min Read
ronstik / Alamy Stock Photo

Trash Talking, an art exhibition by toy sculptor Mike Leavitt, shreds up America with 100 new works spawned from 100% recycled material. At once brutal and fun, the vibrant and visceral pop-art pieces are life-size replicas of politically charged objects, from sneakers to guns. On view July 6 to Aug. 18, 2024 online and at Mini Mart City Park, Trash Talking asks, what is truly disposable?

Trash Talking marks Leavitt's first show since 2016, when he last exhibited with Jonathan LeVine in New York. In it, he reimagines the corner store, satirizing well known products with repurposed packaging. Leavitt sourced his materials from dumpsters behind gas station mini marts, selecting each item for its specific cultural implications, most of it cardboard. He then sculpted objects that cast a bright light on toxicity and waste: juice boxes made from oil and beer cartons; an old pay phone from Apple packaging; a toddler car from wood pallets; and more. Other works tie products to meaningful events and places. Air Jordans are made with cigarette cartons from North Carolina, home of the shoes' namesake. Mickey Mouse on an AR-15 evokes mass shootings in Florida, and a pistol made of Skittles boxes evokes the death of Trayvon Martin.

Leavitt is best known for his action figures depicting Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Spike Lee, Andy Warhol, Bernie Sanders, and many other public figures. Since he started his cardboard shoe project 20 years ago, they have appeared in museums and shoe geek collections, now formatted with educational resources for teachers, students and DIY makers. As a child of the 1980s, Leavitt grew up steeped in the branding of major corporations, which drives his reinterpretation of their ubiquitous castoffs. Leavitt also has a longstanding appetite for ecologically-themed work, inspired by his father Harry, an environmentalist and activist until his death in 2017.

Venue Information, Public Reception, Sales & Gallery Hours

Mini Mart City Park recently opened on the site of a former gas station after 10 years of environmental remediation. A free public reception will be held 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 13, with take-away works available for less than $100. All artworks will also be available to buy online beginning July 6 at Gallery hours are from 12 - 5 p.m. Thursday - Saturday. Exhibition information is at

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