The announcement of the nominations for the 81st annual Academy Awards garnered a lot of attention, as usual. By contrast, there has been, to date, little press coverage of Philly's Dumpster Divers' 14th annual Formal Awards Banquet, which was held earlier this month at Ten Stone on South Street.
Besides the obvious difference - internationally renowned Hollywood movies vs. local trashpicking assemblage artists - there are some other distinctions between the two events. The most notable is that there is no nominating process, and not even the categories are announced before the event itself. In fact, each award category is only mentioned on the spot, as one Diver bestows an award on another.
The awards themselves, though, are real, even if they're not all gold-plated statuettes. The only sure thing is the Golden Pick (previously, but not this year, given out in the form of a gold-spray-painted pickaxe) for the best find among all the stuff picked up by Divers in the course of the past year.
The convention is that each award given out has to have been found in the trash, though some Divers combine items or decorate them with non-trash materials to make them more festive. This year, as always, the winner of the "Lighthouse Keeper" Award was John Jonik, who had the misfortune years ago to make a crack about the ambiguity of that phrase and now each year must take home multiple awards in the form of trashpicked lighthouses, nearly all of which are bestowed by founding Diver Neil Benson. This year Jonik graciously accepted around a dozen lighthouse-themed awards, some of which he may, as is custom, re-award next year under some other category.
Meanwhile, the Divers are not resting on their trashpicked laurels but getting their art out there in several 2009 shows. Going on now (through the end of Feburary) is State of the Garden: Art of the Dumpster Divers at the Hammonton Gallery of the Noyes Museum of Art in New Jersey. The blurb for the show explains the title with "the Garden State...the State of the Garden...the State of the Planet" and says