For artists Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang, visiting their favorite stretch of Northern Californian coastline is a like taking a trip to an art-supply store. For the over 10 years, the couple has been collecting bits of plastic debris, washed-up remnants of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and transforming them into works of art which highlight the perilous state of our oceans -- while at the same time making something beautiful. "We really like to say this is a love story," says Judith.The artists describe the story behind their creations on their Web site, BeachPlastic:
In 1999 we started collecting plastic debris--carrying it away by the bagful-- all from Kehoe Beach, a remote stretch of the Point Reyes National Seashore, in Northern California. Certain items would catch our interest: milk jug lids, combs, toy soldiers, disposable lighters, cheese spreaders from lunch snack packs. We were attracted to things that would show by their numbers and commonness what is happening in the oceans around the world.
The plastic we continue to find is not left by visitors; it is washing up from the ocean. Back in our studios we clean, sort and categorize the pieces according to color and kind. We use the plastic to make artworks including large sculptures, installations, photo tableaus and jewelry.
We are a collaborative team. Our love of nature is combined with our interest in science to produce an on-going series of art works about the oceans and the environment. While the content of our work has a message about the spoiling of the natural world by the industrial world, our final intent is aesthetic and celebratory.
In the increasingly popular realm of environmentally-conscious art, colorful bits of discarded plastic have become a favorite medium -- but there's still plenty of the stuff to fill the world's museums. According to experts, there are around 46,000 pieces of floating plastic for every square mile of ocean -- amounting to about 315 billion pounds of plastic waste.
Ultimately, artists like Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang aren't merely changing trash into art -- but changing perceptions, too.