Monday, October 5, 2015
See Haunting Art Made From Plastic Trash in the Ocean
Published in Ryot.org by Veronica An - Sept. 30, 2015
If you’ve ever wondered where the plastic trash you tossed ends up, look no further than your local gyre. These slow moving patches of ocean water are created by wind patterns and the Earth’s rotation and act as catch-all’s for ocean debris. Gyres are indicators for global pollution and paint a startling picture about how our consumption habits impact the planet.
The North Pacific Gyre is about twice the size of the United States and contains thousands of tons of plastic and microplastic waste. Not only does this unsightly floating landfill impact the marine ecosystem, but microplastics often end up in the bellies of marine animals who mistake the colorful bits of indigestible material for food.
According to World Watch, 10–20 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans each year. But with numbers that large, it can be hard to fathom what that really means. A group of artists at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska set out to explore the complex relationship between humans and the oceans. Gyre: The Plastic Ocean is shows the visual impact of consumerism and the haunting legacy of plastic.
The exhibition is no on view at the USC Fisher Museum of Art from September 2 through November 21, 2015. These beautiful and slightly disturbing art works provide a haunting portrait of consumption habits.
Given the ongoing drought in Los Angeles, Gyre takes on a slightly ironic tone.
In a parched city, the exhibition is intent on starting a discussion about the ocean. Ariadni Liokatis, the curator at the USC Fisher Museum of Art, describes the exhibition as timely and relevant to the state’s current situation. “It fits into the larger discussion of environmental issues in Los Angeles. In recent years, we have developed a greater consciousness of environmental degradation and have launched citywide clean up initiatives and the ban on plastic bags,” she told Ryot.org in an interview.
From photographs to mixed media sculptures, each work in the exhibition showcases the artist’s unique strengths. Artists from across the world added their voice to the discussion on pollution; some works whispered and others shouted but everyone had some thing important to say.
The artists used found plastic objects and ample stores of ingenuity to create something beautiful and through provoking. “I love the way everyone’s personal stories, creativity and expertise have been entwined to present such a distressing topic in a most informative, concise and visually appealing way,” Sue Ryan told Ryot.org in an interview.
Her piece, Ghost Dog, is her first life-sized dog sculpture that she created from discarded fishing nets. The sculpture invites wonder but leaves the viewer with a sense of unease.
Many works in the exhibition had hidden surprises. At first glance, Karen Larsen’s Preservations look like quaint mason jars filled with seashells and sand. But, on closer examination, the piece takes on a more sinister feel. Instead of holding seashells from a memorable day at the beach, the jars contain bits of plastic sorted by color and size.
Following in this ironic tone is Max Liboiron’s Seaglobe. This meticulously crafted snow globe contains a distopic ocean seascape create from plastics collected in New York City.
Cynthia Minet’s Beasts of Burden makes a strong environmental statement in the form of life-sized mixed media animal sculptures. Minet assembles recognizable pieces of plastic into animal sculptures, illuminated by colored LED lights from the inside. These beasts illuminated an entire room with their multihued glow. Minet’s plastic animals posed a silent but very real question about the legacy plastic leaves behind.
Artist, Diana Cohen, described plastic as an ambiguous material. “At this point, I have a love/hate relationship with my primary material,” she told Ryot.org in an interview. Plastic represents all the wonderful innovations of mankind…plastic represents the future! But what kind of future?”
Gyre is a though-provoking exhibition that gives new life to a persistent, plastic problem and implores us to rethink out habits. Art has the amazing power to draw viewers in and give them a new lens through which they can view the world.
“You look at these deceptively beautiful artworks and, upon taking a closer look, you realize how challenging the material is, how serious and critical of a subject matter is being addressed in the exhibition,” Liokatis told Ryot.org in an interview.
Now the only question is how we can change the devastating state of our oceans.