Alumna, B.S. Elementary Education
Having spent my life wading in the Pacific Ocean looking at tide pools and digging in the muck of Puget Sound, I have always been intrigued with the textures, patterns and colors of nature. Out of these deep connections my artwork has come to revolve around the sea.
In the last 10 years I have seen the pristine Oregon beaches of my childhood become cluttered with plastic pollution. My response to this reality has been through mixed media sculptures. I now see the essential purpose of my work is not only to create strong aesthetically sound sculptures, but also to bring awareness and dialogue about the oceans' environmental issues. I believe the power of the arts can carry urgent messages forward into the public eye.
The Washed Ashore project has taken my artwork in a new direction. I have always used various types of discarded and recycled materials, as well as new materials, to represent the strange and undiscovered creatures that dwell in the underwater world. Now, I have challenged myself to buy nothing except wire and metal framework materials, gathering every other bit of material I use from local beaches – my sculptures are now 98% discarded plastic. This way of working is the biggest creative challenge of my life.
Presently, I am leading the community in a collective effort to build giant sculptures of the sea creatures most threatened by plastics in the ocean. Hundreds of volunteers and school children have helped in the drilling and stitching plastics to create the enormous sculptures.
The push-pull of humans and nature has always been an essential element in my work. My sculptures are evolving as the ocean environment is changing. Ocean plastics now outweigh the amount of plankton by at least six to one. This statistic is terrifying, and fuels my artistic endeavors.
The arts have the power to transform people and their interactions with the world. Instead of drowning in despair about the disappearance of coral reefs, or the pollution in the ocean, and I am using what the ocean is throwing back at us to create an artistic response: A reef of oceanrolled styrofoam; a giant jellyfish created out of plastic bottles; a bird of gun shells and lighters; a huge fish of lids, cans and plastics; a sea turtle with a plastic mosaic shell; a whale bone rib cage of white plastic bottles; and an ever growing tower of black and brown beach plastics representing the oil spill.
This project is opening eyes, hearts and minds and is inspiring action. The sculptures are becoming ambassadors of the sea. This happens in the creation of the work and as we send it out into the world. I firmly believe in "art for life's sake" not only "art for arts sake".