Cary project: Bags of bottles, wall of art

akenney@newsobserver.comApril 13, 2013 

— Bryant Holsenbeck wasn’t sure how many plastic bottles she would stack in the windows of the Cary Arts Center. There were rows of 20 and stacks of 15 pressed against the glass, and a half-dozen more trash bags of soda and water containers waiting.

Maybe 7,000, maybe 8,000, the artist guessed. A whole lot – stretching in sheets from floor to ceiling against the huge glass plates, all part of an arts project for which the town paid $5,400.

“I work with what there’s a lot of,” said Holsenbeck, 63, of Durham.

The Cary installation is the third in a series, with earlier iterations appearing at Appalachian State University and N.C. State University.

Holsenbeck’s idea sprang in part from a personal quest to avoid plastic for a year. Now, by putting the bottles on display, she hopes to illustrate the volume of oil and energy that feeds the plastics industry.

“It’s all about stuff we throw away,” the Greensboro native said. “This is so ubiquitous in our life.”

She has had the help of a rotating crew of volunteers, including members of the Cary Teen Council.

Some of the materials came from the artist’s earlier collection drives, while the town of Cary provided others from its recycling service. Most will be recycled when the project comes down in September.

Holsenbeck’s helpers were a bit confused at first. “I had no idea what I was looking at,” said Neel Mehta, 16, a Green Hope High School student.

And the project had a few “avalanches” as the volunteers learned bottle-stack physics .

Eventually, the crew fell into a rhythm, and the walls of plastic were creeping toward the ceiling of the Cary Arts Center.

Kenney: 919-460-2608 or

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