Bright-Minded Home – April 2013

By Melissa Coleman

Louise Philbrick is a South Portland artist known for her creative use of found objects, from old pianos to objects in nature. Her work has been exhibited at many galleries in Maine and across the country, and she is currently at work on a series of commissions.


Q: How and why did you begin using found objects in your art versus buying new?
A: Finances were a consideration in art school, but I’ve always been drawn to objects that visually demonstrate the rigors of their history. A friend rebuilding his front steps gave me the old stair treads instead of taking them to the dump. The toenail scratches of a dog eager to get outside and the wear of 20 years of people coming and going aren’t features one can request when purchasing new. And there never seems to be a shortage of these types of objects available for the taking, if I keep my eyes open.

Q: Why musical instruments?
A: Music is a huge part of my life, and I’m fascinated by the craftsmanship of old instruments. There were close to 325,000 pianos manufactured at the turn of the nineteenth century that are now reaching the end of their “useful lives.” People don’t have the space to keep them around as beautiful objects, so they are literally dumping them into the ground. There are so many ways to repurpose them and as many reasons why we should. I think we need to redefine the term “useful life.”

Q: Do you reuse items for purposes other than art?
A: Right now I’m turning the head of an old cranberry rake into a mail and key rack for the entry to my sister’s house.