“Like the pottery archaeologists use to define human cultures of the past, a layer of plastic will signify our own throwaway society. What will these discarded fragments say about us?
– Jo Atherton
Artist Jo Atherton is the perfect example of an artist using non-traditional materials to create art. We also love that she is bringing awareness to environmental issues.
Atherton creates her art from discarded materials collected along the UK coastline. Using the energy of the sun, she makes gorgeous cyanotype prints (also known as sun prints) of the items. She also weaves tapestries from the items that she discovers.
Atherton believes that we can learn a lot about our past through these washed up objects. Some of the items she finds are 30 years old or more, like old plastic toys. It’s interesting and sad to see what happens to these items when they are no longer loved or needed. In the artist’s words:
“I weave strands of stories to engage the public with sensitive environmental issues in ways that distressing images of marine wildlife cannot. My creative practice has become a useful conduit to explore single-use plastics as most of the flotsam objects I work with are commonplace in our homes.”
Her images are stunning and beautiful, yet they also serve as reminders of the disturbing amount of trash, mainly plastic, that is accumulating in our oceans. The artist cannot solve the issue on her own, but she is doing a great job of bringing awareness to the problem. Through her process, she also recycles items that would otherwise be garbage into meaningful artworks.
Continuing with the theme from the previous post, Barry Rosenthal is a Brooklyn based photographer also working with beach plastic. His photo series “Found in Nature” is a collection of discarded objects found on the beaches of New York. The colorful and well-designed artworks make us forget for a moment that the truth behind his work is quite disturbing. Our overuse of plastic has lead to an abundance of waste that keeps going long after its original use. To learn more about Rosenthal’s work, visit his website at www.barryrosenthal.com.
“I am a collector. The beach is my flea market and found objects my inspiration.”
This blog will often feature art made from recycled objects and other non-traditional materials. I was excited to come across the website of artists Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang. Their work is an excellent example of using non-traditional materials.
In 1999, the Langs began to collect plastic debris washed ashore at Kehoe Beach, located in Point Reyes National Seashore in California. They have been visiting the same 1,000 yards of shoreline to gather their materials.
Using the discarded objects, the Langs create art ranging from large-scale sculptures to small jewelry. They even embellished a car with found plastic objects. Their work has been in over 70 exhibitions.
Through their work they hope to bring awareness to plastic pollution and its devastating effect on the environment, while also transforming otherwise useless objects into beautiful and imaginative works of art.
Below is an enjoyable and informative video about their work.
To see more of their artwork, visit their website here.
Image Credits: (top to bottom) Bosky Dell, Shovel Bands, Chroma Purple via the artists’ website: One Beach Plastic.
To go along with my recent post about toothpick art, I have found some fun projects for kids. I love the idea of working with nontraditional art supplies that are either lying around the house or affordable to buy. Toothpicks are definitely easy to come across. Loosely inspired by the work of artists Scott Weaver and Wayne Kusy, here are a few ideas I came across. (The project credit goes to the links under each photo.)
Scott Weaver is a San Francisco-based artist who creates elaborately detailed artwork using only toothpicks and Elmer’s glue. Scott began creating toothpick art in 1968, at the age of 8. His most famous toothpick sculpture is called Rolling Through the Bay, a kinetic sculpture which was constructed using approximately 100,000 toothpicks over the course of 37 years. Scott estimates that it took over 3,000 hours of his time to create the sculpture. The sculpture is 9 feet tall and 7 feet wide.
Wayne Kusy of Chicago is another incredible toothpick artist. I had the honor of meeting him several years ago and helping him with a toothpick art workshop at a Chicago gallery.
Wayne was inspired to start building with toothpicks in fifth grade after completing a school project using his chosen medium. Wayne started small and eventually worked his way up to building toothpick versions of ocean liner models, ranging in length from 4 feet to 25 feet. His largest toothpick sculpture is the 25 foot Queen Mary, which was made using 814,000 toothpicks and 19 gallons of Titebond II.
Michelle Stitzlein is an artist from Ohio who works with found and recycled objects. She uses unexpected materials to create her artwork, such as bottle caps, garden hoses, shards of china, old piano keys, and license plates. She has a great sense of color and design and knows how to transform the discarded items into intricate details that make her work come alive. Her butterfly and moth series is striking.
Artist Bill Miller was a founding member of Industrial Arts Co-Op in Pittsburgh, a group that created large-scale sculptures made of discarded materials found at abandoned industrial sites. The goal of the installations was to bring attention to the damaging impact of industrialization.
While constructing the sculptures, Miller came across an unusual art material: vintage linoleum scraps. He has been creating linoleum masterpieces for over 20 years. His collage-like linoleum paintings are made using only recycled and vintage flooring, no extra paint is added.
Miller’s artwork has been exhibited in several museums and galleries. To view more of his work, please visit his website at billmillerart.com.