Ever since I took Catherine Howard’s contemporary art history class, I play a little game with myself in which I predict what art historians will someday say about this decade. Of all the emergent genres, garbage art and community-based works with an environmental awareness bent are making a huge “splash.”
Just as early Soviet artists responded to social and environmental changes such as censorship, and a move away from the abstract and experimental toward realism, 21st century artists respond to the changes within their own time: climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification, energy consumption, waste.
Thanks to Ms. Hubbard for sharing a photo of this magnificent marine life sculpture made entirely from plastic bottles. I love it b/c it reminds me of giant fish-shaped lite-brights and b/c the beachfront installation demonstrates just what we can do with our waste rather than waste it.
It also helps us imagine how much space a bit of our waste may occupy if it lands in an ocean gyre.
The piece was assembled for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, and it’s much like the work Ms. Hubbard does herself. See her giant 2010 Chandelier/”Spoondelier” that won the People’s Choice Award at University Mall’s Scrapel Hill exhibit. Entitled the Sweet Life, Hubbard’s piece includes 7,000 of the 37,000 discarded plastic spoons she collected from Sugarland in Chapel Hill, NC over the course of one year. Think of all the gelato spoons that left the shop and never made it into her collection.
(Because of Carter’s influence, I’m going to start carrying around my own wooden spoons to ice cream shops. This is what the ever clever Bryant Holsenbeck does, and she gives such ligneous portable dinner ware as gifts. Always thinking, that one.)
These works inspire us and our imaginations because they force us to shift our perceptions to accommodate new uses for everyday items. But far beyond that, their images stick in our minds each time we reach for an individually wrapped consumer product, easily tossed and then made invisible to us but not invisible to other parts of the world.