Thursday, January 1, 2015

Time Flies

That matchless Surrealist Groucho reminds us, "In 2015, it's time to do your part to stem the tide of plastic pollution."
Happy New Year!!!
From your good friends Judith and Richard.

Visit us at our Beach Plastic website. 
To keep apprised of our adventures on and off the beach 
we post regularly to our blog Plastic Forever. 
"Like" us on our Beach Plastic Facebook page.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Beach Scoop

It's rare day when it is clear enough to see, in sharp relief, the distance all the way from Kehoe Beach to the Point Reyes lighthouse. This scoop of strand called The Great Beach or 10 Mile Beach is usually drenched in fog, rain or surf mist. But on this day, it was sunny and warm—the horizon razor sharp. From the top of the hill where we snap a pic on every visit, Judith caught this image of our troop headed down to the tide line: Doug, Doug's brother Pete with his two boys Harry and Walker plus just in from Hong Kong our new friend Kwokzu.

Our old friend Doug Woodring has a keen eye for plastic. He is the co-founder of the Ocean Recovery Alliance, founder of the Plasticity Forum and coordinator for the Hong Kong International Ocean Film Festival. And, besides being a plastic activist par excellence, he has time to be a competitive open water swimmer. 

So our favorite place to take him when he visits from Hong Kong is Kehoe Beach. Although we all found bagfuls of plastic there was only one agricultural tie, found by Doug.

Check out those green sacks. The Gardener's Hollow Leg, donated to us by Bob Bloomberg, are an indispensable part of our beach attire. Yes, count 'em— four bags full.

Doug's keen eye also has us appreciating the sand flies scattering like wind blown chaff.


As 2014 draws to a close we are grateful for friends from both near and from far across the sea who are as avid as we are about doing something about the plastic pollution problem. 

We can't thank you all enough…yes we can!!! and the planet thanks you too. THANKS! and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Winter Solstice

Although there has been significant reduction in the amount of smog in the LA basin, there is still the smell of petroleum in the air. Oil rigs and refineries and the sweep of freeway overpasses remind us that who we are and what we do is fueled by the embedded remains of prehistoric creatures. The string of diamond headlights winding up out of the valley as we drove in on Friday evening tell us that we are indeed in the heart of car culture. But we have come to Los Angeles for another kind of culture.

We visit Tom Lieber, an old friend of Richard's now living and working in Pacific Palisades. For 35 years Richard and Tom have been traveling parallel lives as artists. The way way ups and the way way downs of what happens when the creative life is chosen…"not for everyone" as the sign on the door of Herman Hesse' Magic Theatre says in Steppenwolf. "For Madmen Only."  Agreed and well said. Richard is tasked to write an essay about Tom's work, another chapter in their adventure. Tom and partner Cheryl live beautifully amidst Tom's work and the lassos of his and Cheryl's accurate and coherent eyes they have for contemporary art. So carefully chosen, every piece is a passport to strange worlds unfamiliar yet glamorous. Last night's dream may show up in real life as you turn the corner from one room to another. Tom has long been a collector of antique furniture—not the top of the line Chippendale or Hepplewhite stuff, but quirky hand made things with the patina of use and age — like a stack of short benches, some painted, some honeyed wood. Picture a shelf crowded with old-time shaving brushes. 

Consumer culture gives us worlds within worlds of accumulation and it's a fine thing to encounter the carefully curated objects at Tom and Cheryl's that stir the psyche and the heart at once, so, we were primed for the exhibit of Clare Graham and MorYork.

On Wilshire Blvd, right in the heart of LA, life-size sculptures of mammoths roar up out of the belching methane of the asphalt ooze at the La Brea Tar Pits. 

Right across from the tar pits is the apotheosis of accumulation at the Craft and Folk Art Museum. Stuff that falls away from us into a kind of tar pit of oblivion. Clare Graham resurrects, for example, quantities of pop-tops from soda cans (hundreds of thousands) sculpted into furniture. Wunderkammern are filled with unexpected delights like shelves of used paint brushes all on edge like the fur of some beast. Hundreds of Teddy Bears saran-wrapped into towering totems. As Graham says, "Materials are assembled in vast numbers so that they take on form and substance beyond the single unit appeal." Yes, indeed!!!

Makes us think about making one sculpture — one big pile of every piece of plastic we have ever collected from Kehoe Beach. We're thinking of making an exhibit called All of It.

When crooners sing and poets muse about Southern California, the beaches of San Diego are what loom in the imagination. The romantic notion of towering palm trees, balmy breezes and gorgeous sunsets are the reality, as is the tectonic reality of ever changing landforms. Here's a paean to So-Cal, riffing on Rembrandt's Three Trees.

To celebrate the winter solstice we head to Carlsbad Beach with Janis (Judith's sister) and Paul (brother-in-law). Janis has become an avid beachcomber and collector of plastic. She photographs the plastic in place on the beach and frequently contributes to Litterati the "digital landfill." In 2015 she will be presenting an exhibition of her work at the Bay Model in Sausalito.

Right away Judith found a pink Barbie doll high-heel shoe (hey, this is going to be fun!!!) and soon thereafter a toy soldier (wow, what a beach!!!) The competition between the sisters was off and running. Sibling rivalry—call it what you will, these sisters are game for the game. 

When Janis found a soldier she danced with both arms raised in a faux touchdown six-shooter dance of joy. Pow-Pow-Pow. When Matt Simms NFL player danced that "gun simulation" he was fined $7,875. 

At LACMA James Turrell's Breathing Light was a highlight (so to speak). As you let the slowly changing light of the work wash over you, you find yourself caught in an existential Never-never Land of no time, no space. Viewers are given fifteen minutes to bask in the glow. Richard, ready to be in there forever, was gently led away by a guard.

And then at dusk we enjoyed the vintage street lamps of Urban Light by Chris Burden at LACMA's entry pavilion.

In Oceanside, home of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendelton, we found at the Oceanside Museum three surprising exhibits. Neil Shigley's giant woodcuts of homeless folks, breaking the silence of these all too often invisible people. Nudes from the Bram and Sandra Dijkstra collection—he is one of our favorite art historians who's written beautifully about the WPA project in American Expressionism. Plus, given our Southern California sojourn, we were engaged seeing the traveling exhibit California Dreaming. Judith especially liked a 4-part series of photographs—tops of the heads looking like arial shots of wheat fields with dark hair roots growing in contrast to the bottle blond-ness. 

And speaking of light (tis the season) in La Jolla we were awe-struck by the architecture of Salk Institute. Designed by Louis I. Kahn, the building itself and the mission of the Institute, is definitely a point of light. It's a monument to our highest values of curiosity, discovery and good works. The sisters raise their hands in praise.

As the astronomical event of the solstice passes we are relieved to be turning once again towards the light. We are blessed to have such great friends and family and to be in California Dreamin'. A line from Anna Akhmatova comes to mind: Sunset in the ethereal waves: I cannot tell if the day is ending, or the world is ending, or the secret of secrets is inside me again. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Out to Sea?

Out to Sea? The Plastic Garbage Project organized by the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich started its journey in 2012. Our nurdles and pieces of micro-plastic are included in this traveling show that continues on to Beirut, Casablanca and Amman. 

To keep up to date:

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Black Friday

Get your Secret Santa list ready. 
On Friday we're headed to the beach to scoop up bargains galore.
Hey, you can't beat the price — it's free.
All you have to do is pick it up — and that's fun! 

Post turkey, stuffing and pecan pie, as we kick off the holiday season we are thinking about filmmaker Kate Schermerhorn who just before Thanksgiving sent a secret sample with the exciting news that DO I NEED THIS? her latest film is definitely making progress. With lots of humor she encourages us all to never go to the mall again without asking ourselves, DO I NEED THIS?

Here is the trailer — the full feature is going to be a blast. 

And Reverend Billy and his Stop Shopping Gospel Choir have been caroling in malls asking customers, What Would Jesus Buy?

With these good questions in mind, on Friday, Black Friday, to get into the spirit, we headed to the beach to do a little shopping. Bolinas Beach, not our usual Kehoe digs, was our special destination. Eli wanted to surf and we had Clementine (5), Aloysius (2) and Jude (4 months) in tow. Plus, given it's the shopping season, it would be a fine time to stop by the Bolinas Museum to see Judith's show — Like Diamonds, Plastic is Forever.

With a break in the rain, the weather was balmy, so there were lots of folks out enjoying the waves. And, there was plenty of plastic, shells and stones for our stop-shopping pleasure.

It was a typical collecting day in that it was easy to find at least one of most common items on our "hit list": bottles, lids, wads, tiparillo tips, food wrappers, straws, spoons. Plus, there was one glove, a sock, two pairs of sunglasses - one with the lenses and one just the frames, and a handful of small colorful pieces of plastic that we call "confetti."

There were several mysterious pieces of layered paint. Something that we have never seen before. Our best guess is that these multi-colored pieces are from some seafaring conveyance - either from surf boards or boats. Like counting rings on a tree to determine its age, we tried to count the layers of paint to figure out the years of maintenance required to keep the vessel afloat. One piece had at least 15 layers. We are keen on our new category: "paint chips" and are eager to find out their source. 

At the museum, Judith's shawls knitted from translucent dry cleaner bags and blue plastic shopping bags were a hit. 

Back at home we sorted the bag full of treasures. Shells and stones were wrapped and bowed - the perfect gift for someone who has everything.

Do I need this? Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Kindred Spirits

After many cyber-communications it was a special thrill to meet in person Howard and Dyan Ferren from Seward Alaska. Howard was Director of Conservation at the Alaska SeaLife Center and his wife Dyan is an fine artist and was formerly the human resources director for SeaView Community Services. Together they were the visionaries and instigators for Gyre: the plastic ocean that became an expedition, book, award winning film and exhibition at the Anchorage Museum. 

They recently retired, sold their home, packed their belongings and have set off in search of a new place to settle for the next phase of their lives. We were happy to be a way station on their journey.

They had followed our work for years so were eager to finally go to Kehoe Beach with us and pick up some plastic. These two intrepid adventurers are truly kindred spirits. No instruction was needed. As soon as we hit the beach they got right to it picking up plastic. They have a keen eyes and know exactly how to identify even the smallest pieces of plastic in the sand. Howard found a tiny fragment, the hook end from an agricultural tie and before we knew it Dyan had gathered up a bag of brightly colored small pieces. 

Agricultural ties that are commonly used by wineries are often found as marine debris on shorelines in Northern California and we have found plenty on Kehoe.  NOAA Fisheries has been doing outreach to wineries involved in a sustainability certification program. To support their efforts we have sent some of the photos of ag ties we have found on Kehoe so we are happy to have yet another pic to add to the documentation.

It's not yet the plastic season so there was not really very much plastic to be found. But, what we really found on the beach — some great new friends.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


After a successful night of trick or treating, Clementine is counting up the spoils, arranging the sweet goodies into rows according to brand and flavor- chocolate or fruity, hard or soft. Skittles, M&M's,  Reese's, Kit Kat, Hershey's. 

You mean I get to eat only ONE now?
Save the rest for later? to be "portion controlled" in an agony of one at a time for months? 

To honor the Dia de Los Muertos, Judith headed to Kehoe Beach to reflect upon her ancestors who have gone beyond and in this case plastic that is gone but not forever. Even in spite of the brutal wind and whipping sand she walked the tideline in a ritual procession in search of mementos of the living and the departed.


She collected a bagful of spoils - there were plenty of food and candy wrappers. In thinking about all of those Halloween confections and in an acknowledgement of the durability of the thermoplastic polymers, she re-phrased the familiar dieters saying into a different kind of forever. "A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips” is now,  "A moment in the hand, forever on the sand."

Skittles, Snickers, Reese's, Choco*pie. 

These spoils really are….