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Loudoun Times

Sticky subjects

By Brittany Boyd

Sterling man creates artwork out of gum

   For most people, chewed gum is nothing but a nuisance. It gets stuck in hair, under desks and on the soles of shoes – and it doesn't come off easily.
   But for Sterling resident Jamie Marraccini, 35, gum is all good. “I've always loved gum,” he said. In grade school, he recalled when gum was like currency. “If you had a box of gum, you had power. Kids would flock around just to see it.”
   In high school, Marraccini stuck wads of gum inside his locker and kept them there all year. The fascination continued through college and beyond.
    Gum, he said, not only boost metabolic rates and prevents tooth decay, but it can also be transformed into art.
   Today, the electrical engineer and gum artist has attracted national attention for his more than 30 works of art completed over the past 15 years.
    Each abstract sculpture or composition depicting people, eyes, hands, feet and so on consist of hundreds – in not thousands – of pieces of chewed gum carefully spread or molded into place.
    GumArt has been featured on cable and network television, including CNN, ABC and CBS; on radio programs; an in countless publications, including Nickelodeon Magazine. Home & Garden Television just finished taping for an “Offbeat America” episode tentatively set to air Nov. 13 at 9.p.m. For details, check the program guide at www.hgtv.com .
    Marraccini also has done solo art exhibitions. Currently, his work is on display throughout his single-family home in Cascades, and on www.gumart.com .
    Hanging in the kitchen is his most recent piece, “Hands on Sticks,” a 2-by-3-foot “portrait” of Marraccini and his wife, Rana, made from 4,212 pieces of chewed gum.
    The background has a marbleized effect, created by two or more pieces of chewed gum swirled together. It took five years to complete. Production is slow because it takes a lot of time and effort to gather all of the chewed gum necessary.
    “When motivated, I'm a mad chewer,” he said. He's chewed man as 50 pieces per day – with the jaw muscled to prove it – when working on a project, but he can't do it all himself.
    Marraccini elicits help from friends and family. He passes out packs of gum at work, along with laminated sheets of paper where chewed gum is deposited, then returned.
    Chewed gum is sorted by color and stored inside plastic containers on a table in Marraccini's living room, alongside endless stacks of Extra, Bubblicious, Carefree, Fruit Stripe, Winterfresh, Trident… the list goes on and on. Some of the major brands are familiar with GumArt and send Marraccini free cases of their products.
    “Somewhere along the line, I got burnt out on grape,” he said. “There's no way I could chew it again.”
    He selects gum based on color, and pays careful attention to how the colors change in age. Carefree peppermint, Marraccini says, is the only gum that stays true white, and Fruit Stripe has the best pastel palette.
    For pure flavor and chewing satisfaction, the artist like Bubblicious Paradise Punch the best, but he's wary of branding. He wants GumArt to remain pure.
    Marraccini has been unable to part with all but a few of his works for money, although occasionally he does work on commission.
    Currently, the artist is working on a new project for kids – a “Chew-By-Numbers” kit complete with everything needed to make a miniature work of GumArt. He hopes to get it on the market soon. “We'll see what happens,” he said. “Some parents will probably think it's gross, but some will like it.”

 

 








 

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