Baldwin artist crafts faces from discarded milk jugs

MILLEDGEVILLE — It was happenstance, a discerning eye and a craving for one of his favorite meals that led Baldwin County native Vincent Hall in the early 1990s to embark on an unusual craft: From discarded milk jugs, he began sculpting faces.

People. Pets. Celebrities. Mascots. He does them all, with little more than hot glue sticks and the one-gallon plastic containers most people toss out after they’ve downed their last glass of milk.

“I was in the refrigerator one day, fixing a bowl of cereal, and I just saw a face in the milk jug,” Hall said. He spoke Sunday about his start following the opening of an exhibit of his artwork. Looking on from the wall behind him were the likes of Ray Charles, John McCain and President Obama. Oprah was in the other room. So was Tina Turner.

“Vincent Hall & Friends” will be on display from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each weekday through Aug. 7, at the Marlor Arts Center on North Wayne Street in downtown Milledgeville. Admission is free.

Although Hall, 41, began his work nearly two decades ago, he said it was not long after he started before he burned out. Making money became the primary goal, he said, and he had gotten away from the art itself.

It was only a couple of years ago that, somewhat down on his luck, he encountered an old homeless man who remembered Hall’s art from an exhibit put on some 15 years earlier. He was an obviously intelligent person, Hall said, who spoke about being overlooked by the rest of society. And in Hall he said he saw someone who could do something meaningful.

That man inspired Hall to get back in touch with his creative passions. So he took a part-time job with Milledgeville’s Allied Arts Inc., cutting the grass and performing basic maintenance work, and used the new studio space made available to him and the empty milk jugs that started appearing to begin sculpting again.

For Hall, the sculptures are something deeper than an object hanging on the wall. He tries to connect with his subjects on an emotional level, he said, and translate that to his work.

“It’s somebody’s emotions, somebody’s thoughts, somebody’s dreams,” he said.

Randy Cannon, the executive director of Allied Arts, said that people are often surprised by the materials Hall uses, sometimes mistaking milk jug plastic that has been heated, molded and assembled into various shapes for wood or clay. But if you look closely, Cannon notes, you can see the handle that has been turned into a nose.

And not all faces are intended to be exact replicas. Hall has sculpted one version of President Obama that is intentionally caricatured, highlighted by some rather large ears.

“He has a little bit of fun with it sometimes,” Cannon said jokingly. “I just hope he never wants to do me.”

To contact writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.