A South Coast artist has made
awareness of plastic ocean pollution
the focus of her work, creating an exhibit
that has traveled the West Coast.
ABOVE: A giant bird made of plastic scraps rests on salvaged tires in front of Art 101. —Linda Popovich
AS YOU DRIVE along Highway 101 a few miles inland from Bandon, a giant 14-foot-tall bird suddenly rears up at you, wings spread, from the roadside. Perched on a pile of old car tires, this enormous bird is made of multicolored strips of plastic, old hair brushes, chopped up flip-flops, bottles, bottle caps, toothbrushes, kids’ beach toys, and all manner of other plastic debris.
It looks like someone picked this stuff up off the beach and made a sculpture of it—and that’s exactly what 54-year-old artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi has done.
After the early death of her husband, Craig, in 2004, a grieving Angela was wandering along an Oregon beach
and noticed tiny pieces of plastic mixed with the sand, forming a line of colorful plastics as far as she could see.
She was horrified.
“I came to the ocean to heal, but found an ocean that needed healing,” said Angela at the opening of her Washed Ashore exhibit. Angela’s husband had always told her that she should create meaningful art, a mantra that she has clearly taken to heart. “I researched the effects of plastic in the ocean and the tragedy of the animals suffering. I decided to take artistic action to show the massive problem of plastic ocean pollution.”
Thus, in early 2010, she started the nonprofit Washed Ashore: Plastics, Sea Life and Art project, a traveling exhibit designed to raise awareness. “We need to wake up to our single use of plastics,” she says. “We use the packaging for one minute and it lasts for centuries as pollution. It doesn’t make any sense. We must change our ways.”
To that end, Pozzi and hundreds of volunteers have made 18 massive sculptures from recycled plastic beach flotsam. Besides showing in its home base of Bandon, the exhibit has also traveled to Portland, as well as Sausalito, San Diego, and Chula Vista, California.
Many Volunteers work on items picked up from the beach. —Angela Haseltine Pozzi
VOLUNTEERS MAKE IT WORK
Washed Ashore volunteers pick plastic debris from the beaches, sort it, wash it, drill holes in it, cut bottles, stitch the plastic with wire, string the pieces, and attach them to chicken wire, to eventually fashion a huge sea animal, an ocean environment, a coral reef, or an oil spill. Ninety-eight percent of everything that is collected is used. The creation of these sea creatures takes place in two yurts, which serve as the project’s workshops.
Volunteers span all ages. “The leopard shark framework was welded by a 16-year old girl from Marshfield High named Sasha Strain,” Pozzi says. “She did such a great job; it was a work of art before we even attached plastics to it.”
How does Angela recruit her assistants? “We hold free community workshops for six to nine hours each week and everyone is invited to help.” Pozzi also takes her workshops to the schools and beaches, recruiting inspired teenagers and youngsters to help with this massive project. Senior citizens, summer campers, and families also volunteer to help.
“We’ve had thousands of kids involved with the project. We’ve worked with five school districts, and 10,000 children in California and Oregon have visited the exhibition on field trips,” she says.
The delicious irony of what Angela does is not lost even to the most casual observer. She uses recycled beach debris that could kill birds, fish, turtles, and jellyfish to create the very creatures that are endangered by it, drawing the public’s attention to the problem. Brilliant!
Consider these impressive figures: Since January 2010, more than 1,000 volunteers of all ages have collected more than four tons of plastic junk that would still be marring 20 miles of pristine Oregon beaches between Port Orford and North Bend if Washed Ashore volunteers hadn’t picked it up. And, more than one million people have seen the traveling exhibition or participated in Angela’s project and workshops.
Lydia the Seal seems overwhelmed by plastic debris. —Linda Popovich
Next door to the purple yurt where her Washed Ashore creatures are made is Art 101, which hosts community art projects, workshops and classes, a reference library, and an educational gallery of marine debris artifacts with interactive exhibits. Take a look at the work Angela did before the Washed Ashore project, including some marvelous sea creatures made by Angela out of recycled clothing. Angela is adding eco-friendly products and recycled art by other artists, and you can also sample Oregon-made chocolates and truffles and enjoy locally roasted coffee on the garden patio.
The favorite of many kids (and adults) who visit the gallery is the Bioluminescent Sea Cave, where you see repurposed items and marine life made of fabric in dazzling glory in a small “undersea” cave. When the lights are turned off, it magically glows in the dark. And don’t miss the beautifully painted sea creature by Angela’s daughter, Nicola Bianca Pozzi.
Angela is gratified when her Washed Ashore exhibition impacts people enough to cause them to change their behaviors. Many visitors are deeply affected by seeing the behemoth sea creatures made of plastic beach detritus. One visitor realized that Henry the Giant Fish was made of beach trash and said to his kids, “Now you see that we should never litter on the beach; it’s wrong. Let’s go inside and look at the rest of the animals.”
That’s exactly the kind of reaction that Angela is looking for. “That meant more to me than the curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art approving the work,” she says.
Meaningful art. Her late husband would be proud. end