We are all familiar with the expression “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Rodney “Rodrigo” McCoubrey is a master of finding treasure in everyday trash. A self-proclaimed environmental folk artist, McCoubrey takes the negative aspects of waste and reinvents it as fun, positive art pieces. “If it ain’t fun, I ain’t doin’ it,” he says.
His Leucadia home/gallery/workshop is a “Fun Zone”, a seemingly endless maze of recycled art pieces. Every turn unveils more colorful masterpieces from McCoubrey’s well-known fish interpretations and custom altars to his Baja California trash series. The stone floor in the main gallery room is designed from bath counter leftovers, and the interior roof of his vintage automobile is “reupholstered” with cloth swatches strewn together. A super-sized Cheshire cat, butterfly and a dodo bird happily greet guests and passersby from the front yard.
The open-air workshop in the back reveals troves of debris ready for a new chance to shine. Used street-sweeper blades, snipped zip-ties, bottle caps, old tires, recycled plywood, shoe soles, paint buckets, half-empty acrylics, lost golf balls and toys are a fraction of the unique scraps collected. This extensive assortment of everyday items and discarded odds and ends will artistically transform into eyes, fins, scales, hair or teeth. Textures are an important aspect to McCoubrey’s art.
An avid surfer for more than 40 years, it’s not surprising that surfboards have become prominent components of his work. The foam is often repurposed into a bony fish skeleton or body form, and the skin is peeled and fashioned into fish fins. Creating original objects has been a life-long aptitude for McCoubrey. In high school, he was a clay addict and eventually found himself in production ceramics. Even so, his work was unique and reflected his inner sense of FUN. “I’ve always been intrigued by the way things wriggle and shape themselves,” he expresses more clearly with his hands.
Fortunately, yet unfortunately, there is no shortage of resources from dumping grounds and construction sites to roadsides and beaches. Being able to give new life to something that was headed to the landfill is a special gift. Some things are recycled three times – now that’s pretty cool!
Rodrigo’s Recycled Art can be found in several local art galleries, libraries and in the homes of private collectors. He is actively involved with local schools to promote art programs while also sharing an environmental message with younger generations. McCoubrey hopes to inspire others to think about their spending habits and, more importantly, how they throw things away, “I want to teach people that they don’t need to buy a lot of things. They need to learn where to find things and how to recycle them.” So this Earth Day, take a look at what you throw away! Maybe with a little Rodrigo-inspired creativity and some fun textures, there is a hidden treasure waiting to be reborn.