Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Great Wave

When we installed our Chroma Blue at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek it was almost a year to the day (1/22/19) when Ann Trinca, freelance curator, first reached out to us about a show she was proposing that was going to be inspired by the The Great Wave, a woodblock print by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai. She intended that the exhibition look at the power and fragility of our oceans with a section of art made from beach plastics and she was inviting us to participate.

After Ann’s studio visit and our trip to the Bedford, there numerous emails back and forth and forth and back. Several arrangements were envisioned — complicated and dense. We all agreed that given the theme that we bring out the blue. There was lots of sorting and setting the stage with our fine collection of international bottles. So on our appointed install day (1/6/20) we were ready-set with a car full of possibilities 



We like to say we work well with others and this day was exemplary. One of the great pleasures is our collaboration — the lively banter with just us and then we appreciate when our circle is expanded to include Electric Works with daughter-in-law Kris Lang who printed our Chroma Blue (big and on canvas), Ann Trinca who held the curatorial vision, the parameters and challenges of the space (curved walls) and the crackerjack installers Erik Mortensen and Jeff Cowherd. Given this expert team, we trusted that although we had decided on a plan, our display might take a turn and surprise us by ending up somewhere we had not imagined. 

Once the shelves were mounted and Chroma Blue was hung, we piled everyday objects (in blue) on the sweep of shelf. Along with the thermoplastic junk of our throwaway culture, we tossed a selection of international single-use bottles from Korea, Japan, China and Malaysia to show how the ocean currents are the great conveyors bringing debris from all around the Pacific Rim to us on Kehoe Beach. As brackets for the ensemble we hung our photographs of blue nurdles. Nurdles or pre-production pellets are the result of the fractionating process of forming hydrocarbons into easily shipped bits; in this case they were colored blue before being made into bottles, bins, or bags.

VoilĂ  —  we might now call this installation Rhapsody in Blue or maybe taking a cue from Wallace Stevens The Man with the Blue Guitar Canto XXXII

Throw away the lights, the definitions,
And say of what you see in the dark

That it is this or that it is that,
But do not use the rotted names.

How should you walk in that space and know 
Nothing of the madness of space,

Nothing of its jocular procreations?
Throw the lights away. Nothing must stand

Between you and the shapes you take
When the crust of shape has been destroyed.

You as you are? You are yourself.
The blue guitar surprises you.

We were surpised with the final result and we hope that visitors to the Bedford will be also be surprised and will find beauty in our blues.

Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center for the Arts
1601 Civic Dr. Walnut Creek, CA 94596 

January 12- March 22, 2020

Monday, December 23, 2019


Dear Lovely Ones,

Fear Not 2020.
20/20 a prayer for perfect vision.

Imagine living without fear this coming year. 

Wishing you the best in 2020
and "most of all, when snow flakes fall, we wish you love…" Sam Cooke 


Monday, November 11, 2019

Good Signs in Singapore

Back in September we were lunching in San Anselmo with Doug Woodring our friend from Hong Kong. To say that Doug is a BIG thinker is an understatement. As co-founder of Ocean Recovery Alliance, he travels the world, convening conferences and cleanups. For his latest BIG MOVE — he initiated the travel from Bruges to Singapore of the Skyscraper AKA the Bruges Whale designed by New York-based architecture and design firm StudioKCA for the 2018 Bruges Triennial. 

We were doing as we always do when we get together with Doug — brainstorming about user-friendly ways to message about plastic. To deal with the tragic mess of plastic we talked about how to make the question of plastic — a puzzle? a fun game? a treasure hunt? We told him about the interactive activity we developed for the Oakland Museum asking visitors—"Can you find a piece of plastic (in our installation) and tell a story about it?"

Since writing about what we find is an important part of our art practice, one thing led to another. We ended up selecting some fun and findable items on the Skyscraper Whale then writing the text for the Singapore signs. 


This pic from The Straits Times Plastic Whale Breaches for the Sky. 

By the look on that little girls face, clearly the whale is a hit. And we hear from Doug that the signs are doing what they are supposed to do  engaging the public in a fun (and sometimes puzzling) way — causing people to stop and take a closer look. And that is a good sign.

The Whale will be on display in front of the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands until December 19 when it embarks on an Asia Pacific tour.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

As Above, So Below

We are so pleased and soooo darn proud to announce that our beach plastic is in Baltimore, yes, Baltimore, that Baltimore —  gracing the entrance corridor at the American Visionary Art Museum, October 5, 2019 until September 6, 2020 in a must-see exhibition, The Secret Life of Earth: Alive! Awake! (And possibly really Angry!)

And if that title of the show is not enough to get you to go then maybe Trump's tweets will encourage you to visit this fine American city that has its maritime history on display in the Inner Harbor and one of the premier bio-medical research centers on the planet — how about Johns Hopkins University. Plus, it is home to the Lethal Ladies of Baltimore from Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. We would just love, love for Trump to be in the same room with them. They would show him a thing or two.

AVAM Director Rebecca Hoffberger describes the what/where of our installation:
“As our entry floor dramatically ramps and curves upward, the whole of the ceiling assembly will be the most dramatic and beautiful welcome for all our visitors. Beach plastic garlands will be strung, bowed, horizontally. In between we will hang, also from the ceiling, a beach chair and table dangling at a crazy angle, along with as many objects of interest. Next to that will be my essay on plastic punctuated by the small global plastic toys and items that made their way from afar to your park land beach. Behind our front desk, will be displayed on an 86” tv monitor, the dramatic wind and water, neon colored-temperature coded, real-time, Goddard Space Flight Institute-generated, glorious images of the actual world oceans swirling and continuously interacting as well as their world wind interactive - hypnotic and far better than any giant lava lamp!” 

With that in mind we shipped off a big box- yes BIG box packed full of plastic. 

We have been flying high watching from afar as our a freight load of “stuff” that we sent to Baltimore was being installed. We knew that the visionary AVAM team would make us look good and did they ever. When friend Arlene saw the pics she exclaimed, It’s as if the sky sprouted Miro!!! That blue — so deep blue as the sky or deep blue as the ocean is the perfect setting for As Above, So Below.

We are thrilled that the reporter from the Baltimore Sun in her review Is Climate Change Art? picked our work as a ”must-see.” We never imagined that when we started picking up plastic — doing what we call “planetary housekeeping” — that our collection would be “news.” Her description of “the adult equivalent of an infant’s crib mobile” is apt. The bold, bright colors against the blue, the soft breeze from the HVAC, do create an effect that we hope will captivate visitors so they stop and stare at the strange and the familiar and come to the question — was that once mine?

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Best and Brightest

It really was the most beautiful day to go to the beach — temperature at 86° a luxurious warm, no wind and nary a trace of fog.  The sun so brilliant, it shattered all records of illuminated grandeur.

A visit with Rebecca Didomenico is always to the brim with inspiration. We walked the walk and talked the talk about art and imagination and how to best represent.

In the deep of night I turned to her gift of her latest book Flying Inside Paper, 60 poems and images, published on the occasion of her 60th birthday to celebrate her 60 years of creative life. And wouldn’t ya know, as it happened, the pages fell open to the most moving of reflections about her mother Ann Stephens who I had the great good fortune to befriend for some 30 years.

Noticing is The Only Witness of Memory Left 

Did anyone notice the moon? 
It’s glorious, she said, with more than enough light 
pouring out of her eyes.
Even though, lately 
her eyes are devoid of anything 
remotely luminous 
not to mention glorious.
Now she sits at the table, 
not eating, not making connections 
to the words coming out of our mouths.
Every once in a while, 
she spells a random word out loud,
as if to make it belong to the conversation in her mind.

And I know how she feels: 
how sometimes 
the words fall short of their meanings 
And how they seem to be bumper cars 
colliding in the cover of night.

And I think about how my husband used to say,
If I hear one more time 
how that plum tree is the most beautiful tree in the world 
Or this restaurant is the best one she’s ever eaten at,
I will scream. 
And I say, think about the alternative;
sitting there for eternity with a bitter old woman 
who can’t hold the splendor in anything. 
And because, sometimes 
my husband has an uncharacteristic ability 
to surprise you with his talent for learning, 
He turns to her,
The half of his face next to mine in darkness,
and says, I notice, dear,
What would we be without her!
(meaning, of course, my mother 
and the moon simultaneously),

and our Alleluia, Glory be to God!
And to all of us here, still able to witness, 

I whisper inside.


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Coastal Clean Up Day 2019

Clementine marched and held her sign high at the Global Climate Strike in San Francisco on Friday then put her words into action with her brother Aloysius on Saturday with us on Drakes Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore.

It was a glorious day for climate in action — gentle waves, soft ocean breezes, the perfect shoes-off temperature to wiggle toes in the sand.

We like to say Coastal Clean Up Day is our Christmas, our Yom Kipper, our Ramadan, our Dewali, too. It is the day we join with others in an international effort to do what we do on a regular basis. Our religious fervor for the planet is expressed in the concept of halakha, meaning the walk the walk or take the path sometimes translated as law, which guides many aspects of daily life.

Slather on that sunscreen, grab your collecting bags, don your Pick Me Up Bag and come-on, let’s get going. 

After a check-in at the table set by docents from the Point Reyes National Seashore Association, the kids were primed by the display of plastic caps and David Liittschwager's pic of the stomach contents of a Laysan Albatross. Yes, their wingspan is twelve feet!

We are on the case to collect plastic. Come-on, let's get going. 

But this time of year, the nadir of the plastic seasonal cycle, is not prime time for collecting.
Some particpants complained about the dearth so instead of Coastal Clean Up Day in September we propose a day where celebrants of the sea go to the edge and bow to the mighty forces of the ocean. Our vote is to have coastal clean-up in April when the Winter/Spring currents bring the plastic in. The north flowing Humboldt Current brings debris out to the Gyre in Summer/Fall. Maybe the Fall event should be Beach Appreciation Day! 

Although there was scant plastic there were plenty of other reasons to be at the beach. On the lookout, the deep search was on — a tide line dig for sandcrabs, Pacific Mole Crabs.

A delicious reward for a fine day at the beach — a Water Buffalo milk gelato cone, a soft serve swirl of salted caramel and vanilla.

From the newswire: 
Tens of thousands of Californians turned out to take part in the 35th California Coastal Cleanup Day, the state’s largest annual volunteer event, organized by the California Coastal Commission.

They gathered hundreds of tons of trash at beaches, shorelines and inland waterways, cleaning up at over 1,000 sites in 55 of California’s 58 counties -- the largest collection of sites in the cleanup’s history. Cleanups took place up and down the coast, from the Oregon to Mexico border, and as far inland as Lake Tahoe. California’s event is part of the International Coastal Cleanup organized by Ocean Conservancy.

With 75% of the cleanup sites reporting,

the statewide count stands at 59,772 volunteers.

Those volunteers picked up 469,100 pounds of trash
and an additional 33,611 pounds of recyclable materials,
for a total of 402,710 pounds or 251 tons.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Plastic Garbage Project

The Plastic Garbage Project just keeps on keeping on.
Now to the Americas.
In Uruguay until October 18.

Nurdle, nurdle, who can find the nurdle? 
These girls continue to search.
Our nurdles from Kehoe Beach continue to confound.