Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In Memorium

One day Chuck Wiley asked if he could take two buoys from our pile of buoys collected from Kehoe Beach. He gave no explanation about what he had in mind but the next day he returned with one. In a seemingly simple configuration he transformed the buoy. With two holes cut for the eyes and one for a mouth, it now holds all the mystery of the inscrutable Mona Lisa smile. 

We were stunned when we got the news of Chuck's sudden passing. We think of him every day as we pass by this totem that stands at the top of our driveway as guardian and greeter.

Friday, January 27, 2017

These days...

These days the weekends don't mean much. One glorious day just flows into another now that we are working from home. "What's today, again?" Since our retirement from Electric Works we are hard pressed to find our way into the car. We commuted from Forest Knolls to SF for 20 years!!! 

But this weekend we found ourselves traveling back to our old SF Civic Center hood for the Women's March where we stood with 10's of thousands of others to protest the Trump regime.

We rode the early ferry into town. Lots of pink pussy hats to be seen and Judith with Clementine's borrowed pink Bat Woman cape—her nod to "Pink Power," caught lots of comments. Hooray for Bat Woman, the heiress who used her fortune to fight the forces of evil. Is there any evidence that Trump has used a dime of his billions to do good?

Since we were early, we headed for SFMOMA to see In the Beginning an exhibition of early Diane Arbus photographs and William Kentridge's profoundly realized essay on the experience of time. Go see it!

As we walked up Market to the Civic Center we were buoyed by a sea of pink pussy hats. The era of calling a whimp a pussy is well over — weakling, coward, sissy. HA!

Coming downstream was an anti-abortion group who had the morning parade permit. We couldn't help but notice the Walk for Life folks had pre-printed signs in black saying, "I am pro-life." All alike and obviously pre-printed and handed out by the thousands. Humorless and lock-step the pro-lifers seem like a one-trick pony. In great contrast to Women's March hand-made creative placards like: "I'm not much of a protest guy, but sheesh!Or "I've seen better cabinets at IKEA."  We'd have a greater affinity if these same folks would care as much about the born as the un-born. Feels like the same crowd that wants to cut school funding and child care. Sheesh is right.

It was a prudent decision to not have the grandkids in strollers with us - it was hard enough to make our way through the crowds to get a place near the speakers stage and our good old friend Ashurbanipal. The sculpture of Ashurbanipal anyway, next to the Main SF Library, who died in 627, BC. Ashurbanipal is an awesome presence standing tall in the plaza area between the library and the Asian Art Museum. A fearsome warrior, king of Assyria, whose mission was to collect and gather books as he made his empire. His library at Nineveh (modern-day Mosul)contained over 30,000 texts discovered in 1847. We know the Epic of Gilgamesh because of Ashurbanipal. In one mighty arm he clutches a lion whose teeth are deep in the king's wrist, the other arm proffers a book. Oh! that we could have a rekindling of interest in knowledge in our post-fact Trumpian world!  Our latest bumper sticker — We stand tall with Ashurbanipal.

Energized by the March, we strengthened our resolve to do what we can about the issues near and dear. So on Sunday we headed to Kehoe Beach. Since there have been unbelievable storms dumping record breaking amounts of rain we were sure that there would be plastic aplenty. We were not disappointed. As we topped the first dune and saw stretched out before us piles of kelp and plastic debris, we broke into song— belting out "Happy Days are Here Again."

With the success of Hamilton on Broadway and the 14 Oscar nominations for La La Land we are living in a time of the resurgence of the musical and after the winter storms — the resurgence of plastic.

Right away Richard found a turtle sand toy — YAY — happy days. But soon dark storm clouds gathered and we were blasted with pelting hail and ferocious winds. We got soaked in the deluge and sadly were unable to make our fill-our-bag quota. It was a rough trek back to the car — we slogged our way through sodden sand, slip-slided in the mud and the umbrella was blown inside out. We used to boast that we had visited Kehoe Beach in all kinds of weather but this was inclement with a capital I. 

On the trail, during the worst of it, Judith found a mini-Transformer. This auspicious find in the midst of a torrential down pour felt like a sign, a symbol of how to manage the days ahead. Seems like we should face the future as a shapeshifter able to change from vehicle, to animal, to action figure and back again and be, as the Transformer byline suggests, more then meets the eye.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Walk The Walk

“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”  
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Judith writes: 
On Monday, January 16 at Limantour Beach people, lots of them, showed up to participate in the National Park Service Day Of Service cleanup. Although I could have gone to Kehoe, I wanted to be included in the count of volunteers in remembrance of MLK to "Make it a day on, not a day off." And what a spectacular day it was!! Over 100 people turned out for the beach cleanup including an energetic #GirlTrek group of women from Oakland. That's me on the left in the front row in the first group to head out. 

So glad to be introduced to Girl Trek "a national movement to mobilize women to live their healthiest and most fulfilled lives through the habit of daily walking." To date, over 80,000 black women have taken the pledge for themselves. They are going for one million pledged by 2018. I snapped this pic of the "Girls" snapping a Selfie.

The weather was sunny-warm-perfect. Sad to say, that after the onslaught of the recent storms, the plastic was abundant. In just three short hours it was easy to fill my collecting bags plus I found several of my top offenders: there were four Starbuck coffee stirrers, five Tampon applicators and seven Pull tabs from milk and juice cartons. Click on the hyperlinks to read the previous posts.

On the trail back I met Meg Frisbie who works on the structural cleanup crew for the National Park Service. She loves the park so much that even on her day off she wanted to help with cleanup efforts. Now that is the true definition of a postman's holiday a vacation or holiday spent in a pastime similar to one’s usual employment and in the case of the postman — that means walking. 

Just as Meg was about to toss her bag of plastic into the recycle bin, she pulled out a Superball. I shrieked - do you know the rarity of that find!!!  Then she proceeded to pull out of her bag a Barbie doll arm and a tiny plastic skull. I shrieked again - do you know the rarity of those finds!!!  She was a bit overwhelmed by my enthusiasm for these bits of trash but I was so enthralled that she generously gifted me her treasures. Thank you Meg!

Yes, rare finds indeed but, the real treasure of the Day of Service was in the time well spent — walking the walk. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pick Me UP Bags

Just in time for the holidays and the King Tides and the high-season for plastic, we are thrilled to be in receipt of our Pick Me UP Bags. Flown-in and delivered in-person, by our friend Doug Woodring from Hong Kong.

They are available now — order on line and coming soon to vendors in California.

Judith was sorry to have missed Doug's visit. She made a quick stop at Kehoe Beach to check on the status of the plastic before heading to the closing reception of Commons Dilemma at Gallery Route One. Gravitational moon sway makes it the season for the lowest of the low tides and the highest of high tides of the year. And the low did not disappoint. 

Plus there was plenty of plastic in eye-catching complementary color arrangements:

At Gallery Route One The Ostrich Feather Wedding Dress Project was organized by Lorna Stevens and Joanne Easton in conjunction with their exhibit Commons Dilemma. Research into the history of the ostrich and use of their feathers are adornment led them to acquire on E-Bay an ostrich feather wedding dress. They were fascinated by this gown and offered it as a launch point for a group project. Each artist borrowed the dress for one week and created an art work in response.

Judith writes: 
When I think about the journey of my snarl of rope — from the Pacific Ocean to Kehoe Beach to the wall at Gallery Route One — to see that "mess" presented in a formal setting — I really have to smile. When I think about the transgressive gesture of posing trash as treasure, I was delighted to see that alongside the remarkable offerings of my esteemed colleagues, it held its own.

As "found art" my contribution titled What goes round  was doubly found — it was first found on Kehoe Beach, then in response to Lorna and Jo's request, found again in our welter of ropes and piles of fishing nets. In my studio, to reference the ostrich feather cowl on the wedding dress, I arranged the ready-made rope into a cowl and added it to the history, origins and definitions of found art, objet trouvĂ©, assemblage and all manner of trash into treasure — from Duchamp's Fountain and the combines of Rauschenberg to the recent phenomena of upcycled Trashion fashion shows.

From a distance the oval snarl of unraveling rope and derelict fishing gear looks like a flurry of feathers and is an inspired response to the ruff of feathers on the wedding dress. As distinctive and luxurious gift from the sea it is also a reminder of the problem of commercial overfishing, by-catch and whale entanglement. Buffeted by wind and surf, much of its beauty is the result of natural forces, plus there is mystique of its odyssey from ocean to beach.

Wearing a piece of beach plastic as jewelry becomes a talking point, a statement of fashion, about what is happening on the beach and in the ocean. Crafting the debris into fine-art-wear as jewelry and garments has become an important part of my art practice. While the content of my work has a message about the spoiling of the natural world by the human/industrial world, my intent is to transform the perils of pollution into something beautiful and celebratory. By putting a little fun and fashion into the conservation conversation, I hope that the value of detritus will increase. Soon everyone will be out at the beach “shopping” for a special piece of plastic trash or will be eager to “mine” the North Pacific Gyre for plastic treasures. Then, we get some great things to wear and to look at, plus we get a clean and healthy sea.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Perfection of the Imperfect

One of the qualities that describes the plastic we collect from the beach is Wabi-Sabi. It's one of those Japanese terms that has entered the English vernacular. It points to impermanence, the visual referencing of the imperfect, the ever-changing nature of time itself. When something is exposed to the forces of nature, it changes and time itself is made visible. Even though plastic seems to last forever, when it washes out of the ocean and on to the beach it often has acquired the patina of wabi sabi—the sand-rubbed surface and the accretion of tiny life forms like Bryozoans. 

We appreciate the imperfections and use the dings and abrasions in our aesthetic arrangements. Think shabby chic. 

At home we collect what we call "house plastic" the small bits and pieces of plastic, from bread enclosures to twist ties to pull-tabs, that are unavoidable in our daily lives. This collecting keeps us mindful of the many, almost invisible ways, that plastic has inserted itself into our every day. As the plastic lids from coffee cans stacked up, we were shocked at how many we had. We realized that there were packaging alternatives that did not include plastic. We now buy our coffee in a paper bag. Although this might seem to be an insignificant change, over time it really does make a difference. Just count it up. One can of coffee every two weeks. That is a lot of coffee and 104 plastic lids per year!  

Monday, November 21, 2016

The future and the past

Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging; 
You are not those who saw the harbour 
Receding, or those who will disembark. 
Here between the hither and the farther shore 
While time is withdrawn, consider the future 
And the past with an equal mind. 

TS Eliot

A reminder of where we have come from and how far we have gone.
When we were describing the journey to Kehoe Beach someone asked - 
how far do you go?
We replied, we go all the way to the end.

Suffering a week of post-election blues, we were glad to have a Yohana Junker and Devin Zuber's Ecology, Spirituality and the Arts class from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley come to visit our home/studio and go for a walk on Kehoe Beach.

It was a welcome respite from our dismay. Maybe we haven't navigated all the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but as this monster-movie of a Trump administration shapes itself, we awake to the existential reality of a life vs. death struggle. We've become increasingly aware that the sixth stage for us is an awakening to the reality that a fight to the death is our new reality. "Winter is coming," as they say on Game of Thrones. Maybe it's more like, "Summer is coming." A very hot summer.

During the Viet Nam War era as Richard was being counseled to prepare a conscientious objector application he was asked: "Is there anything you would be willing to fight and die for?" This is just at the moment when he'd seen Earthrise, that quintessential photograph of the 20th Century of the earth floating in vast space. "Yes, I would fight for this loveliest of planets." There was no question about it. Although he did not get CO status, he did begin this life-long battle for what is right for the planet. 

As we are reflecting on the Obama presidency and are anticipating the Trump presidency we are counseled by Eliot to consider the future and the past with equal mind. Sage advice for sure - but this does not make it any easier when the appointment of the new director of the EPA is someone who disdains environmental regulation. As we stand on the verge of the known and unknown we strengthen our resolve. Although there are soooo many issues that need attention but as the saying goes we can't boil the ocean — we will continue to focus on what we, two people, on one beach, can do and make artwork that WAKES US UP! 

Apropos of the theme of the waking up on the journey we dipped into Dante's Inferno with a quick read of Sandow Birk and Marcus Sanders' translation. Published by Electric Works, our business in San Francisco.

About half-way through my pathetic life, 
I woke up and found myself in a stupor in some dark place.
I am not sure how I got there; I guess I had taken a few wrong turns.

Show and tell in the studio:

Some serious explaining
Some serious mansplaining

As we walked along Kehoe Beach picking up plastic (we were relieved that there was plenty) there was plenty to think about and talk about — big questions about the state of affairs and the state of the environment. We were glad to be able to show nurdles in situ plus Devin found a tiparillo tip and Judith found a Handi-snack cheese spreader. Joy found the prize of the day a bright red star. Red star….hmmmm….A sign the Russian bear is slouching toward Bethlehem? 

We were touched that the students were interested in our devotion to a place as a kind of religious practice and were happy to be able to share our ritual of "stoop yoga" — bending over and picking up. The stimulating conversations along with the invigorating brisk ocean breeze, made us feel so much better. 

At the end of the day, but certainly not the end of the journey, we turned again to Eliot:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time.

Thanks to Joy Barnitz for her photos:

Thanks to Doug Stinson for his photos:

Monday, November 14, 2016

How to explain to children?

We are reeling from the news of Trump's ascendency to power and about the possible end of the EPA and the cancelation of US participation in the Paris Accords, for starters. As we face our growing feelings of anger about what happened on Election Day, we are looking for ways to harness that energy towards taking actions that will have a positive impact on the issues near and dear to our hearts. Anti-environmentalists argue that dire predictions made that first Earth Day, 1970 never came true. Fact is — they didn’t come true because the legislation prevented many, many environmental disasters. How hard is it to realize—no air, no water, no life? 

This election is touching us at a personal and existential level. Our granddaughter is often in tears. Judith's sister, a school administrator in San Diego is having to devote much of her time to helping her elementary school students (largely Hispanic) deal with "why does the new president hate us so much."

Last evening while driving home, Judith caught a segment of Terry Gross' interview with David Bianculli. He has been a TV critic for 40 years so he has seen a lot of TV in his day.
He says his most favorite clip of all time, of all time! is one with Mister Rogers who, after the assignation of Robert Kennedy, did a special segment.

You can listen live (1.5 mins in) or read the transcript:

BIANCULLI: Yeah. It's unbelievable to me that - that Fred Rogers would be so sensitive that he would think that even preschoolers would be part of the family dynamic where everybody was upset. And, you know, maybe parents wouldn't bother to explain anything to kids that young. But Fred Rogers thought they needed it. But that's just so unexpected to me, and I can't imagine any children's television program today daring to do that.

This morning we Googled the question, how to explain environmental issues to young children? As you might imagine there numerous articles and websites that try to give answers.

This article from the Oxford Journals gave some helpful insights.
And this from Global Citizen:

Here is how Lakeside Art School, a pre-school in San Francisco used our artwork to inspire their lessons: http://plasticforever.blogspot.com/2016/07/great-masters.html

On November 3 in Hong Kong for Kids Ocean Day, over 800 school children spelled out Stop Trashzilla on the beach at Repulse Bay. This day of action is intended to educate youth about the problem of everyday trash and litter and its impact on the ocean. Kudos to Doug Woodring and the Ocean Recovery Alliance for organizing a day with a message those kids will never forget.