Artist George Sabra is using reclaimed oil barrels to start a conversation about climate change. Sabra's work is a study in contrasts. Inspired by nature but made out of man-made materials, it is at once graceful and jarring, and conveys a message of urgency while also sending a message of hope. Called "The Knot," the piece is a "free-standing sculpture consisting of 32 reclaimed 55-gallon oil barrels representing global corporations that produce oil." The finished piece appears as two 10-foot tall oil barrels that wrap around each other to form a knot.
Sabra was inspired by COP21 in Paris, where nations around the world arrived at a goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it,” said President Obama about the momentous agreement. “This goal can only be achieved if we ‘tie the knot’ on petroleum use, and invest in clean, renewable energy sources. This is statement and mission of the Artwork” says Sabra in response.
The Art project was commissioned by City of Austin, Art in Public Places program and was originally revealed at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas last October. Since then, it has been featured all over the city, first at the Grand Opening for the city of Austin Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center and then displayed at Boggy Creek park, and at the New Year’s Celebrations at Auditorium shores.
According to the artist, it took a great deal of ingenuity to find a way to create the piece. “The discarded 55 Gallon Oil Barrels were reclaimed and a machine needed to be designed and created that would crush these barrels. A second machine needed to be created to bend the crushed barrels into elbows. The machines themselves would be made from discarded and reclaimed parts.”
Sabra adds, “In designing and building the machine that crushes the barrels, I went to a scrapyard most every day to see what material I can reclaim and re-purpose and when I needed a hydraulic power unit I was fortunate to find an old industrial Cardboard baler that had been discarded sitting right on top, there it was, like a gift for me. I rebuilt the hydraulic power unit and it worked perfect. ”