Kenyon College

Amber Kraus


Amber Kraus

New York, NY

Kenyon Class of ’15, Studio Art major, Art History minor, with an environmental studies concentration


A portrait, as it has been historically defined, is a visual record of an individual that commemorates the significant attributes for which the subject was valued. Through the practice of painted portraiture, I attempt to commemorate the sculptural form that my interaction with a given material produces, and the overlooked value the medium encompasses.  

The body of work entitled Portraits of Waste is a culmination of this process, a product of my sculptural experience with salvaged copper wire and my desire to revalue the natural resource that we carelessly disregard. The copper, reclaimed from a local junkyard, is manipulated into an organic sculptural form, which acts as the basis upon which the large oil portraits are based. The sculptures are projected upon the canvas, their shadow forms recorded in oil paints, each palette inspired by a physical environment, be it natural or man made.

In utilizing the traditional practice of portraiture, one that was historically reserved for esteemed individuals, I am attempting to re-infuse the material with a sense of value. The concept of worth in relation to the raw natural materials is one that humans have become increasingly disconnected from, due to the mechanized manner in which a material is harvested and processed. The environmental impacts of a process or product are inherent in any material that I find, an interest that stems from my personal interactions with the industrial cityscape of New York. The city is a collection of manmade materials, all of which were once an integrated member of the natural world. The ecological origins have long been forgotten, in favor of the contemporary and convenient products they compose. It is the lack of acknowledgement given to the natural resource that motivated me to explore the environmental background of a material. This series attempts to visually commemorate the environmental history of the salvaged copper wire, highlighting the worth of the raw natural material, which has given modern society so much.   

–Amber Kraus, ‘15