‘Washed Ashore’

Posted: Friday, Aug 13th, 2010

Artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi adds clear plastic bottles to a sea star created mostly of glass bottles for the "Washed Ashore: plastics, sealife and art" exhibit opening today (Friday) at the Visual Arts Center in Newport. The touring educational exhibit is the creation of hundreds of volunteers to raise awareness of the harmful effect of plastics in the ocean have on marine life. (Photo by Monique Cohen)

Exhibit raises awareness about danger of plastics to marine life

By Monique Cohen

Of the News-Times

Hundreds of volunteers have created art with a message - to raise awareness of the growing problem of plastics in the ocean washing up on Oregon's beaches and endangering marine life.

"One of the most horrifying things about the plastics in the ocean is how it's killing off the marine life - birds, turtles, seals, fish, invertebrates," said the artist and project leader, Angela Haseltine Pozzi. "They're even finding jellyfish with plastic inside of them, undulating in the ocean. It's infiltrating everything in the ocean."

The new "Washed Ashore" interactive and educational art exhibit, opening today (Friday) at the Newport's Visual Arts Center, hopes to serve as a wake-up call to just how extensive the problem is for the ocean's creatures and humans alike.

"There are these gyres in the oceans around the world that are churning up plastics and making them smaller and smaller until they're the size of plankton, and then it's getting into the whole food chain," Angela said. "It's a horrifying reality, and so what we're trying to do is take those horrifying facts and bring it into a way that people can talk about it and learn about it through the arts."

She said all the plastics in the exhibit were picked off the beaches by about a dozen people over a five-month period in a small remote area in Coos and Curry counties. She added that most of the plastics are not local litter, but come from overseas from China, Japan and Korea through the ocean currents.

Volunteers of all ages created interactive art sculptures from the plastic debris to represent the sea creatures that are affected by the plastics. The sculptures were created at free workshops through the Artula Institute for Arts and Environmental Education, a nonprofit organization based in Bandon.

A giant jellyfish is made from clear plastic water bottles, and baby humpback whale bones are constructed from discarded white detergent bottles, bleach bottles and yogurt and margarine containers.

There's also a musical sea star created mainly from multi-colored glass bottles, which volunteers are finding just in small amounts.

"So we've decided to include the glass as a message that we want to get out - that is glass is a good alternative. Let's go back to glass; let's use glass instead of plastic. If we just used more glass and replaced our plastic bottles with glass bottles, which don't harm the environment, we'd be in better shape," Angela said.

The sea star's bottles will be tuned, and Friday visitors will be treated to a concert.

The exhibits are interactive, and visitors are encouraged to touch gently. The walk-through whale bone rib cage is created from white plastics and is also a musical instrument.

A giant oil spill replica sits in the corner of the gallery.

"This is all the black plastics that we found on the beach. Nothing has been treated," she said. "People ask us if we've spray painted things. Plastic comes in every color," said Angela.

Found styrofoam is used to create a coral reef. "The worst thing about styrofoam is this little tiny stuff - it looks like fish eggs to turtles and to birds and fish, and so they're eating the styrofoam," she said.

"Washed Ashore" will be at the Visual Arts Center, 777 NW Beach Dr. in Newport through October, and then will move to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. T-shirts, gyre globes and the sculptures will be for sale during the exhibit. The Artula Institute also does commissioned work. Donations of any amount are appreciated.

An artist's reception will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. today, with a live music concert from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information about "Washed Ashore," visit www.WashedAshoreArt.org.

Monique Cohen is a reporter with the News-Times. Contact her at 541-265-8571 ext. 217 or mcohen@newportnewstimes.com

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