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Houston Matters

A Look At The Overlooked: Artist Turns Street Debris Into Art

Gabriel Martinez collects often-overlooked objects like broken glass from the streets of Houston and makes them much harder to overlook.

Artist Gabriel Martinez
Michael Hagerty
Artist Gabriel Martinez poses in the Blaffer Art Museum with two pieces from his exhibit, “Everything Turns Away Quite Leisurely.” On the wall is a quilt made from oily rags from a mechanic’s shop. And on the floor are rectangles made from shards of glass collected from around Houston.

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Junk, trash and debris on our streets, highways, and sidewalks is – unfortunately – an inescapable part of city life, so much so that you might not even notice all that much after a while. But street debris hasn't escaped the eye of one local artist.

Gabriel Martinez used to live in New York and Washington D.C. before arriving in Houston a few years back. Everywhere he's lived, he'd find himself walking or taking the bus to and from jobs or school. And, at some point along the way, he started collecting things that you tend to only see from the vantage point of a pedestrian or public transit user – things like broken glass, pieces of wood and even trash. And he'd turn them into art.

Now, he has an exhibit at the Blaffer Art Museum on the University of Houston campus called Everything Turns Away Quite Leisurely.

Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty went over to the gallery to look at some of the pieces, which range from a large canvas covered in salmon-colored paint made from a brick Martinez found, to a quilt of sorts made from oil-stained rags from a mechanic's shop that he stitched together.

Martinez explains his fascination with these kinds of found objects.

  • Artist Gabriel Martinez poses in the Blaffer Art Museum with interstate highway signs he recreated in polished metal. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Artist Gabriel Martinez poses in the Blaffer Art Museum with interstate highway signs he recreated in polished metal. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • Two pieces by artist Gabriel Martinez in the Blaffer Art Museum from his exhibit, "Everything Turns Away Quite Leisurely." On the wall is a quilt made from oily rags from a mechanic's shop. And on the floor are rectangles made from shards of glass collected from around Houston. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Two pieces by artist Gabriel Martinez in the Blaffer Art Museum from his exhibit, "Everything Turns Away Quite Leisurely." On the wall is a quilt made from oily rags from a mechanic's shop. And on the floor are rectangles made from shards of glass collected from around Houston. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • Rectangles made from shards of glass collected from around Houston by artist Gabriel Martinez. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Rectangles made from shards of glass collected from around Houston by artist Gabriel Martinez. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • Artist Gabriel Martinez gathered littler from an area near the University of Houston campus and recreated it in white cardboard for a display at the Blaffer Art Museum. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Artist Gabriel Martinez gathered littler from an area near the University of Houston campus and recreated it in white cardboard for a display at the Blaffer Art Museum. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • Artist Gabriel Martinez covered a canvas with a paint of sorts made from the pulverized remnants of a brick. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Artist Gabriel Martinez covered a canvas with a paint of sorts made from the pulverized remnants of a brick. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • Artist Gabriel Martinez poses in the Blaffer Art Museum with two pieces from his exhibit, "Everything Turns Away Quite Leisurely." On the wall is a quilt made from oily rags from a mechanic's shop. And on the floor are rectangles made from shards of glass collected from around Houston. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Artist Gabriel Martinez poses in the Blaffer Art Museum with two pieces from his exhibit, "Everything Turns Away Quite Leisurely." On the wall is a quilt made from oily rags from a mechanic's shop. And on the floor are rectangles made from shards of glass collected from around Houston. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)