Monday, December 30, 2013

Chances are...

Christmas Eve morning at Electric Works — the crew is already on vacation. It’s quiet except for our bustling about finishing up the year-end inventory, sweeping, clearing out, getting ready for 2014. We’re scurrying to be done with it, when we get a call from a good client. He’s got a neighbor with a last minute request. Can we do just one print on a rush basis? Have it by afternoon?

Alright, but we need the file and it needs to be big enough to warrant high level printing. Sending over the Internet there is the usual back and forth—no, not a NEF file, needs to be a Tiff file, needs to be RGB, yes on watercolor-y kind of paper, 3″ borders all ’round. Parameters settled. It’s an aggravation, especially since we’re eager to get on with our holidays, but OK, OK, we’ll do it.

We print it, but by mistake make 1″ borders. Oh! crapsticks so it has to be printed again. YIKES!  Don’s coming around 3 PM and so much cleaning yet to do.

Don comes in in a rush — but very chatty and jovial. This is really last, last minute shopping. His ride is waiting outside. He’s on his way to the airport. It turns out Don is Don Johanson, the Don Johanson, discoverer of Lucy—the ur-mother of hominids, found in Hadar, Ethiopia, the searing badlands of escarpments, alluvial fans and arroyos; the perfect place for fossils.

“How did you ever find her?” we ask.

“First of all, I was looking for it, looking for hominid fossils. Over my right shoulder my eye was caught by a thin slip of bone. An elbow. A hominid. If I’d been looking to my left I would have missed it. All around it there were footprints made by a geologist who skipped right over it looking for rocks.”

Wow, what a story! Don is a big personality, open-hearted so we’re encouraged to share the quasi-anthropology story about our beach plastic project. We pull out a drawer with one of our prints—a potpourri of aligned and photographed toys found on Kehoe Beach. The items carefully arranged like a specimens in a drawer in a natural history museum. He instantly gets what we’re about so the three of us end up spinning yarns about the human love and serendipity of “seek and find.” His ride texted his cell twice, “Where are you?”

Although he was in a rush, in our sudden found conviviality, Don regaled us with other stories including one about the photograph we’ve just printed of the looming Easter Island statues. The famous Moai at night, stern, lined up to confront the mystery. It’s a photomontage with a starry night sky placed as the backdrop, the region of the Southern Cross and the south polar star Hadar. Line up the two horizontal stars making arms of the Cross and they point to Hadar, the equivalent to lining up the Big Dipper to find our northern pointer Polaris. Don didn’t know Hadar the star was in his picture until after it was published in National Geographic. Hadar, site for his great find, his pole star to anthropological rock stardom. (Ha!) Hadar is the Arabic word for ground.

After much banter Don’s happily on his way, his print in hand, a book from the bookstore, and he even bought the mistake print with the 1″ border. A fortuitous happenstance of a meeting—we’ll get together when he returns in February.

Next day, it’s Christmas, unseasonably warm, we head for the beach. The collecting this year has been skimpy, drought conditions affecting both sea currents bringing plastic in and the gutter washing rains, taking plastic out to sea. The heat drives us into a little swale to sit and shed our jackets and de-shoe. As experienced searchers for plastic we know this a likely spot for debris to accumulate. Our Hadar. Right away, Judith eyes the thin edge of plastic poking out of the sand. Mostly buried, the little tell of color she sees, turns out to be some kind of primate, a tiny plastic monkey dressed in a spacesuit, definitely a simian creature. Not quite Lucy, but for us, praise-worthy in the context of meeting Don. There must be a prayer in the Daily Prayer Book, The Siddur, to be said when finding something precious: like finding a jolly cohort like Don and like finding our little space monkey. Too good to be true? What are the chances? Space monkey? After all, Lucy was named for the one “in the sky with diamonds.”

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Finding Meaning

Finding Meaning in the Mess
August 19 - September 30
Bay Model, Sausalito

Since 1999 we have collected more than two tons of plastic trash from 1000 yards of Kehoe Beach along the Point Reyes National Seashore. We have transformed this debris into engaging works of art that raise awareness of the sheer variety and ubiquity of plastic pollution and its impact in delicate marine ecosystems. We keep a blog to track our adventures, to document what we are finding and to record how this one beach has become a pinpoint describing the whole world. Visit the Bay Model to discover how we have found Meaning in the Mess.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Head over heels

Top: Eli Lang age 31
Bottom: Judith Lang age 63
Do the math!!!

On Saturday July 13, we celebrated Judith's 63rd birthday with Eli and Robin Lang with our annual Abbott's Lagoon to Kehoe Beach trek. Eli got right into the spirit of the dunes and inspired Judith to follow suit. Robin put together this diptic.

It's Snowy Plover nesting season and we had the thrill of being fooled by what we thought was an injured bird who used his broken wing decoy dance to lead us away from the nest. We totally fell for it- his fluttering in the sand pretending that he could not take flight evoked our Florence Nightengale "poor bird" feelings. We tried to get close to see if we could help out - but as soon as we were away from the nest, he fluffed his feathers, gave a wink of his eye and tweeted as he flew away,"ha! ha! just kidding!"

Although there are more Plover nests this year the failure rate is greater than in the past. Park personnel and volunteers are monitoring the nests and educating people about the importance of keeping a keen eye out for the well camouflaged birds and nests.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Original Minds

At Kehoe Beach it was sunny, bright - but we both forgot our hats. Luckily, Judith found a stylish felt chapeau and Richard fashioned a shade with a cantilevered piece of styrofoam and a hank of rope. 

This morning before we headed to the beach Richard talked with Elia Haworth on her KWMR radio program Original Minds. They discuss environmental mediation, conflict resolution and creative problem solving. Tune in.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Ghost Below

We have been on quite a journey since our travels to Hong Kong in April. We have opened shows at the California Academy of Sciences, the Oakland Museum and the Marine Mammal Center. Whew!!! It has been hectic but we are rewarded that we have been asked to use our artwork to speak about the problem of plastic pollution in three such august Bay Area institutions.

In June we cast Indra's Net, an actual 40' x40' trawl net over the courtyard at TMMC. It is paired with the Ghost Net Monster in a dynamic dialogue about the problem of plastic pollution and ghost nets. And, thanks to an amazing team of folks from the Marine Mammal Center and the premier San Francisco ad agency Swirl, an online component of The Ghost Below  just launched.  With this virtual net we cast the net globally — extending the reach of our message. On the Marine Mammal website there is also an enhanced page describing The Ghost Below art installation with simple navigation and easy links. 

The Ghost Below is a call to let the imagination surface. What we don't know, what we deny has a powerful force once it's in the light of day. To make visible what we deny (here, the oceanic load of plastic--nets & trash) sparks new thinking about our problems so we may begin the task every artist knows "show-don't tell." The duty of the net (real and virtual) is to gather up the energy of promises and involvement. We feel the sea to be a source of nourishment both for the body and spirit—a great god in need of our collective propitiation. The ghost below can be a scary image, the unknown lurking. But in truth, it can be the source of creative imagination if we let it, honoring the mystery of what we don't know. 

We usually are a team of two. Our collaboration between us is from the "is you is, or is you ain't" school. Together the two of us can get quick turn-around but we now know, to work with so many voices, with Swirl and TMMC has brought light and richness to the depths of the ghost below. And, in the end, all the voices had impact and made for a super installation and now websites.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Full Circle

Thanks to Dan Rademacher, editorial director of Bay Nature, for his fine report about The Ghost Below.

Dan's neighbor is Beth Terry who has inspired us and so many others with myplasticfreelife

We dug deep through our photo archives to find these pics from March 22, 2010. We are quite competitive with the collecting - vying for who can find the "best" of the day. So you can imagine our feelings of avarice when Beth found this Oreo cookie from Hong Kong.

Yes, back then we did some internet searching but nothing came up. But today, just today,  LOOK an amazing find!!! 

In the astounding blizzard-y welter of plastic stuff here is this! A charm from a little girls bracelet or a key-chain dangle. Or maybe it was, as one website says, a Halloween novelty. But in the big picture, what could it mean that someone had an idea and went to the trouble to shape, make and market this little trifle. And, what will some future sleuth make of it? The holy communion wafer of the First Church of PVC?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On the Move

After the inaugural and successful launch of the Ocean Art Walk along the Stanley Waterfront in Hong Kong, we are happy to announce that all of the art has been moved to a new home, in front of the new Maritime Museum at Pier 8 in Central, Hong Kong. The art has been organized by Ocean Recovery Alliance and the Hong Kong Shark Foundation, with the exhibit showing art related to sharks, fishing and plastic pollution, all in a creative, colorful, fun way, to bring awareness about ocean protection.

Visit the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, Pier 8
May 10th – July 10th, 2013

Built for Speed

Although the show is called "Built for Speed" we've been working triple speed to get our contribution ready for the May 10 opening to the public. We are thrilled to be commissioned to create for the California Academy of Sciences three Ocean Action Stations to address three important issues related to ocean health: plastic waste, unsustainable fishing and wastewater pollution. It has been an incredible opportunity for us as artists to bring our vision and skills into the realm of science. 

 Ocean Action Station: Savvy with Seafood 

One of the special challenges has been to create labels for faux fish cans to address the problem of overfishing and importance of making wise seafood choices.

Ocean Action Station:  Clean Up the Flow

Ocean Action Station:  Pass on Plastic

Built for Speed at the California Academy of Sciences
Golden Gate Park
May 10 - September 29

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ocean Art Walk

After months of planning and hundreds of emails we FINALLY arrived in Hong Kong and were warmly welcomed by Doug Woodring, co-founder of the Ocean Recovery Alliance and organizer of the Hong Kong Ocean Film Festival and the Ocean Art Walk in Stanley Bay, HK. Thanks to Doug we spent an amazing 7 days in Hong Kong where we created and installed a group of artworks that will be on display at Stanley Bay, April 9-23. 

To really know a country the hardware store is THE place. It's where you can find out how people get things done. And in the case of Hong Kong, where there is no Home Depot- it can mean going way off-the-beaten path.  To really know a person you have to have gone the distance with them down narrow alley ways to hardware stores to find the right supplies to get the job done. Doug showed us the way so we are now writing the Lonely Planet Guide to Hardware Stores, HK.

Thanks to an awesome HK Ocean Art Walk team of volunteers who exemplified the famous proverb, Many Hands make light work, we were able to make quick work of over 2500 single-use bottles to create Water Lilies. We couldn't have done it without them. 

Richard Hill captured in time lapse the days of construction and installation. He compressed hours of work into a few short minutes. He made it look so easy.

On the walkway out to Blake's Pier we mounted Plastic Buffet, creating a corridor gallery to showcase our series of prints. Rather than paint or pencil we use shards of plastic as our medium. They become akin to strokes of paint on a palette. 

From the massive girders of  Blake's Pier we hung banners. On one side high-resolution images of plastic were super-imposed on a photograph taken in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in the North Pacific Gyre to symbolize the human impact we are having in even the most remote locations on earth. On the other side we presented our series Full Fathom Five inspired by Jackson Pollock's gigantic drip paintings. We tried to emulate his style using the fibers of fishing net and line. His "all over" composition lends itself to these pieces. Netting is indeed all over the planet's oceans. 

Net Man composed of old fishing nets collected from the fishermen in Aberdeen represents a character from the ocean, who comes out of the water to show his pleasure about the revival of the biodiversity of Hong Kong waters as a result of new controls on overfishing.  As a testimony to the resilience of the ocean, Net Man celebrates the healing forces of nature.

Net Man applauds efforts to bring awareness to the problems of intensive and unmonitored fishing, pollution, trawling, dredging and dumping that have had a negative impact on our marine environment.  He expresses the vision of healthier seas, safeguarding our marine ecology for future generations, by giving the ocean the breathing space needs to come back to life.

We are thrilled to be a part of such a grand endeavor to engage and educate visitors and passersby about the importance of the health of the oceans. We are thrilled to join forces with the other fine artists who contributed to the Ocean Art Walk. The press conference was a huge success with the artists and lots of reporters mixing it up.  South China Morning News posted a report. 

Although it seemed like we did nothing but work, Doug took good care of us, making sure that we enjoyed delicious fare from the sidewalk vendor and the famous Hong Kong hotpot.

And we even had one morning to do a walking tour exploring the shops close by our hotel.

Special thanks to the photographers who contributed to this blog post: Richard Hill, Wilson Tang, Kacie Wong, and Doug Woodring.