Only 6% of plastic is ever recycled. During lockdown, at home with my family eating every meal together, I watched single-use, disposable plastic piling up in our trash cans. While recycling bins are common, the knowledge that so little of the plastic we consume is ever recycled is not. My concerns have caused me to focus my art on ecolog
Only 6% of plastic is ever recycled. During lockdown, at home with my family eating every meal together, I watched single-use, disposable plastic piling up in our trash cans. While recycling bins are common, the knowledge that so little of the plastic we consume is ever recycled is not. My concerns have caused me to focus my art on ecological themes about ubiquitous plastic and its impact on the natural world. As a birder, I reference birds and their flight in my art. Plastic debris seeping into our water and contaminating bird food webs is a major factor driving bird population decline.
Past and some present work has been completed with traditional materials. But for example, when using oil as a medium, my paintings reference art historical works yet deal with contemporary environmental and political issues. For over a year when school was on zoom, I was unable to be in an art studio. It was then that I began experimenting with single use plastic waste and other human made materials that were readily available in my home. The piles of disposable plastic takeout containers and petroleum based clam shells that once held berries became a sculpture. My art also focuses on balloons and its environmental impact being the number one killer of seabirds. Yet, people buy these celebration balloons and release them into the environment. My hope is that as I use plastic in my art it will become normalized. Plastic should be used by more artists because every piece of plastic we have ever used still exists on the planet today which attest to plastics lasting archival integrity.
Inspired by Aurora Robson, a sculptor and creator of the artist group, Project Vortex, I encourage young artists to turn unused waste into lasting art. She created an art curriculum which I have modified and used with younger students at my school. My curriculum and interviews with artists who work in plastic can be found on my site, singleuselessplastic.com Finding ways to reach people through diverse media, whether it be traditional or untraditional means and formats, my process entails repurposing with a purpose to build awareness about our destructive dependance on plastic. I hope that my art will inspire viewers to use less plastic and other artists to recycle it for artistic purposes. It can take 500 years for plastic to decompose. We must find alternatives, and until then I plan to continue to make art that sends a message that is hard to look away from and to find new ways to address plastic proliferation as well as other issues important to my generation.
Our rampant consumption of plastics for personal convenience has led to the contamination of our waterways. As a reference for this painting, I chose Ophelia, by John Everett Millais, intending to contrast the tragic but beautifully poetic drowning of Shakespeare’s character with the horrendous destruction we are imposing on our environment. Thus, Ophelia drowns in a muddy brook surrounded by disposable plastic straws, balloons, cups and plastic toys.
To relate to a painting created in 1851 or one hundred years before the creation of the first piece of plastic, I chose traditional media of oil on canvas.
This self portrait is an experimentation with light. Pink is a happy warm color, while blue and dark tones are cold hues. Reflected party lights indicate enjoyment in contrast with surrounding trash (used balloons) seen only after the party. When the lights are on and the party is happening, no one wants to the think about the fate of materials needed the make an event seem fun.
Only 6% of plastic is actually recycled. For a month, every piece of disposable plastic my family used was not put into a recycling bin or thrown out, but collected for this sculpture. The base consists of cut-up berry clamshells, takeout containers and hard frozen dinner holders. Glued on top are soft plastics from food packaging. I placed this face sculpture on a beach to get people's reaction since most plastic ends up in our oceans and on our beaches. We are the face of plastic consumption.
The subject is my mom and our beloved dog, Olive. I chose to collage packaging into their portrait because the plastic we purchase is forever on the planet and therefore always with us. We understand the cost of convenience products yet still need to find and observe alternatives or we all pay.
This is a portrait of my father reading the Sunday New York Times, a favorite weekend activity for my parents. Behind him is a weather map of a hurricane. Inside our home, news can feel far away, but dramatic conditions are always present somewhere in the world.
During my year in lockdown, I began to connect more with the natural world and enjoy birding. It was then that I realized how plastic is encroaching on our environment. In this self-portrait, I am encircled by birds and single use plastic items. At bottom left is a Yellow Warbler and an Eastern Blue Bird; the bird at top left is a rare Wood Stork, spotted near an Amazon fulfillment center on Staten Island, NY. This bird blown off course, died from eating a plastic tube that resembled an eel. I am staring upward, looking out for the birds yet feeling powerless.
What is a party without balloons? Well, what is a beach without gulls? I live in Manhattan which is on the Atlantic Flyway migration route. Twice a year birds fly through NYC, dealing with life threatening obstacles. Using Procreate, I created a cartoon about a gull. It starts out light and fun but turns deadly. Shot on an iPhone, a pink ball of trash moves through the city, not noticed. Goodbye Party showcases the trash we use while not thinking about the impact on our planet.