Transforming Marine Debris into Beautiful Art

Marine environments and shorelines are great areas for artistic inspiration. The tranquil nature of the beach has always juxtaposed well in images with the fierce nature of the swirling seas. What gets brought onto shore from these powerful waves and tides can be almost as engrossing as the natural landscape itself.

In some areas of the world, these picturesque settings can be dashed by the intrusion of brightly colored plastic waste that may have crossed thousands of miles worth of ocean to end up where it lays. Although many see this pollution as a simple blight on an otherwise beautiful view, some activist artists are reimagining this marine detritus in order to inspire others to use our environment in a healthier way.

A group of artists and scientists brought together by a partnership between the Alaska SeaLife Center and the Anchorage Museum set out for the Alaskan coast during June 2013 for a project nicknamed Expedition GYRE. This program, named after the swirling ocean currents that regularly leave tons of plastic debris and other garbage on Alaska’s shores, was designed to provide a clearer understanding of marine debris, both in scientific and artistic terms.

As this piece from the blog relates, artists from across the country found the pollution to be an effective material for creating stirring works. For instance, New York-based collector and artist Mark Dion created a large display of assorted plastic caps, categorized by size and color to show a rainbow of plastic refuse. Alaskan resident artist Karen Larsen made a unique composition from microplastics measuring less than five millimeters in diameter that had been stored in a glass jar.

Many of these creative minds see themselves first and foremost as artists. Given the importance of our healthy waterways throughout the world, it’s seemingly impossible that anyone could look at one of these installations and not find a highly charged political and social message encoded in the work. Windjammer Arts applauds those who use marine art in new and exciting ways to change the world.

*Video courtesy of oceanconservancy