The process of salvaging and reusing materials—so integral to the objects I create—was exemplified by my late grandmother Babcia, an immigrant from Western Ukraine, who arrived in Newark, NJ, in the 1960s. My mother told me that when my grandmother was a young girl, her family owned a successful business. She rode horses, had a seamstress, and someone even braided her hair. During the war, her family lost everything and was very poor.

But my Babcia became resourceful. With nothing but scraps of leftovers, she cooked up delicious soups on request; clothes that didn’t fit came back to life with minor alterations; embroidered tablecloths and doilies spruced up the saddest furniture. Despite being frugal, she was also generous and warm. Everything she created made those around her feel cared for.

My art is created from a combination of materials, including paint, paper, plaster and discarded materials, such as cardboard packaging and end-of-the-season plant matter. The found materials were used either by others or by me; some may be years old or parts of failed art works that I set aside for future use. Like my predecessors, I live with these discards until I understand their value.

These admirable qualities are my artistic heritage from my Babcia. Another’s detritus becomes our salvaged beauty. I often think when I am in the studio that the material fragments and scraps that I use in my art are as nourishing as the bits of carrots, beets, and onion skins used in making Babcia’s soups.