Famous artist from San Francisco sculpts with trash


It's not that great a distance from Barrish Bail Bonds on Bryant Street to the art studio of sculptor Jerry Ross Barrish on 3rd Street. But for Barrish the difference is huge. The bail bonds company he started 50 years ago is a job - the art is a lifelong interest that turned into a passion 30 years ago during a walk on Pacifica Beach.

"I wanted to make a Christmas tree out of garbage that was left on the beach to show how filthy the beaches were," said Barrish.

Soon the plastic Barrish saw all around him was crying out to be reused, reshaped and reincarnated.

"Michaelangelo would see images in rock, well I would see images in the materials I used. So what happened is I started creating and all of a sudden the work just got bigger and bigger and bigger," said Barrish.

Barrish brings creativity along with some paint and a little glue to keep it all together. Even though everything Barrish uses in these pieces are plastic that he finds by the side of the road or in recycling centers, he hesitates to call himself an environmental artist.

"The work basically has to stand on its own. If it's no good, it's no good and if it's great, it's great," said Barrish.

Barrish is actually better known for his empathy, his favorite work is simply called "Waiting."

"It breaks my heart to see this person waiting for the phone to ring. I've been there too," said Barrish.

Other artists reuse; the Bay Area's Judith Selby Lang makes jewelry out of plastic trash and the design for a huge sculpture at the new Transbay Transit Center was made from material from the terminal they just tore down.

But Barris's reclaimed work talks to you and you talk back.

"I come from a film making background and my work tells a story and it is not only my story, but it's a story that you bring to the work when you look at the work," said Barris.

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