Unwanted materials are transformed into wall art
An episode of This American Life is what put me on the path to creating the Roadside Flowers. Late one night, while working on a very large art project with an impossible deadline, and listening to the radio, I heard the story of Captain Charles Moore and the crew of the marine research ship, Algita*, and the discovery of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The story resonated with me, and I decided to dedicate my work to the issue of plastic pollution in the environment.
While I was still in school getting my BA in art, I had noticed vast amount of surplus, unused, unwanted materials that were piling up in remote places even in my own city. I had focused my early work on using surplus and discarded materials in my weaving and basketry, to make a statement about surplus and waste.
When I Learned about the accumulation of plastic pollution in the oceans, I set my focus specifically on plastic. I collected things that were meant to be or had already been thrown away. I saved caps from the milk cartons, juice bottles, soda bottles that my own family used. I couldn’t go anywhere without finding discarded plastic objects. I embarrassed my family by stopping to pick things up. At first, I used my plastic trash and colored plastic bags in coiled baskets and woven wall pieces.
I began noticing hubcaps lying around on the shoulders of the streets, and freeways I drive every day. The first time I pulled over to pick one up, I was surprised to find that it was made of plastic. And then I could not not see every hubcap by the side of the road as I drove by.
I discovered very quickly that one does not stop on the shoulder of the freeway to collect plastic trash. It is simply not safe and creates a hazard when one needs to merge back into traffic. So, I only collected hubcaps where I could find a safe parking place and walk a short distance to pick them up. When my children had their learner’s permits and were driving with me, I often made them go around the block and park so I could hop out and pick up a hubcap. It has become a funny story they tell.
One day out of the blue, an artist contacted me to offer colored plastic bags she had used in large outdoor installations. I got two boxes containing hundreds of plastic bags, not knowing what I was going to do with them. but as soon as I had the materials, the ideas presented themselves. I had a book on traditional Crochet Stitch Motifs** that I had never used and had often wondered why I ever bought it. I used the hubcaps to replace the center rounds in the greatly expanded motifs, and my collection of Roadside Flowers was created.
* Algalita Marine Research Foundation https://algalita.org/
** Crochet Stitch Motifs (Interweave Press, ed. Erika Knight)