Updated: Dec 5, 2020
I abhor plastic. While I try to achieve a zero waste existence in my household, it is impossible to recycle all of it. It gripes me that every time I reach to buy fish for dinner, it is entirely encased in a shroud of shrink-wrap. Bread loaves suffocating in bags are sealed with a plastic twist tie. My husband’s shirts return from the cleaners cloaked in film trailing like transparent dresses in the breeze. When I was a child in San Francisco, the butcher shops wrapped your purchases in white paper and tied them with cotton string. Italian pastries came home in a pink cardboard box tied with cotton ribbon. My father’s shirts from the Chinese laundry were neatly folded in pink paper and tied with that familiar string. Each form of packaging was something that would biodegrade back into the earth and leave no trace. How things have changed.
Plastic is carved from the earth, created from fossil fuels, and its pollution has become a global threat with millions of metric tons entering aquatic ecosystems annually, and is predicted to increase in the coming years. As land dwellers, humans see waterways as a device to remove waste from our day, not realizing all the ways that it comes back to haunt us. Now particles are inside our fish, mixed into our air, and packaged into bottled water. Humans have developed the ability to compartmentalize pelagic trash as an abstract concept and have disconnected the reality of our daily actions. In her paintings of ocean water ripples, Danielle Eubank explores a schism between abstraction and realism. Through her works, she illustrates how the ocean connects us all, one big colorful body of water acting as a bridge between all lands. Eloisa Guanlao constructs a similar concept with her paper canoe, adding a symbolic fragility to human existence through dependency on the ocean that connects us no matter how remote the tiny island. Both artists have found that our common ground is bound by water. I applaud these artists for their commitment to using biodegradable and environmentally responsible materials in their creations, a conscientious decision which informs my work as well.
In response to the exhibit Common Ground, Non-bio Luminescence is an arrangement of seven PET jellyfish medusæ. To illustrate how deeply plastic has penetrated our daily lives as well as the ocean depths, transparent fruit containers were employed as a material to represent mankind’s effluent from land to sea. Repurposing plastic draws attention to the properties of the material—non-degradable, rigid but light, and moldable into any form humans can invent. Reforming transparent polymers into glowing jellyfish is an ironic replication; as invertebrates, scyphozoa depend on sea water to support its physical form, drifting and pulsing along to procure its food. This parallels our own dependency on the ocean to sustain human life—from CO2 absorption and oxygen generation to the food and medicine we harvest from it—as well as tourists traveling upon it.
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET/polyester plastic) lit with LED string lights
21”l X 8”w X 16”h (arrangement); 4”l X 3”w X 6”h (ave. individual size)
Fall 2020 Virtual Exhibition: Common Ground Response, 11:11 A Creative Collective, Embed Gallery @ ToolboxLA, Chatsworth, CA