The Plastic World series was created as an art concentration for the Educator as Artist course offered by Saint Michael's College, Summer 2016. This series of nine works had its inception in ideas springing from my art teaching and previous work related to my focus on environmental issues and the use of recycled and repurposed media to create them.
The imagery ranges from literal representations of the environmental issues I have chosen to focus on to purely abstract constructs symbolizing various aspects of the theme. The media includes re-used canvases from former student work, powdered fresco pigments given to me by my younger son's 5th-6th grade teacher many years ago, metallic powders inherited from my mother-in-law, a selection of my sons' plastic toys discovered during attic cleaning, charcoal, inkjet printer ink, plastic bags, bubble wrap, printed images, old tubes and bottles of acrylic paint, and diluted glue. Oh, and the cracked recycling bin lids offered by my colleague who teaches environmental science at Colchester High School, who said "Maybe you can use these in some art work?" Challenge accepted.
Compositionally, I have been drawn to circular and organic shapes for some time in my work, and made this the major unifying element of these pieces. Despite the fact that every canvas is square or rectangular, I attempted to make the work come alive with a spiraling, spinning movement to conceptually connect to the radial form of the plastic debris gyres featured in the environmental theme. There was constant analyzing and revising in process to improve the compositions, especially in balancing the organic with the geometric, as well as maintaining emphasis, generally in a visual center of each piece. I also constantly assessed the contrast created in textures, colors, and values provided by the wide array of materials to create works that attempted to avoid "busy-ness" and visual fatigue, yet were visually stimulating and engaging.
Conceptually, I strive to make my pieces convey sobering truths about the human impact on the earth we depend upon for our survival, while expressing these ideas in aesthetically appealing objects of beauty. I intend for the viewer to be drawn in by the interesting objects, shininess, and luminous quality of the colorful and metallic surfaces. The series began by depicting the whirlpool of the Pacific ocean plastic gyre and its effect on fish and bird populations, then transitioned to representing the earth and human use of resources, before concluding with images connected to the Space debris orbiting the earth and a "glimmer of hope" offered by positive changes recently observed in the scientific community in the Antarctic ozone layer hole.
I realize that I am treading a fine line with my work, between creating art for a viewer's enjoyment and brow-beating my audience with a political message, but at this point in my art career I find that my making is more meaningful when it has a point, a rationale - when it visually communicates my convictions, and maybe in some small way, can influence thinking and be a catalyst for change.