Plastic art

Kathleen Egan, a San Francisco-based artist, whose mission is to "Stop The Plastic Wave":  

There is an ever-growing amount of plastic entering waterways and ultimately oceans that has no feasible removal solution.  In Alaska, plastic accumulates from all over Asia and the US.  In third world countries plastic is basically dumped in the ocean.  However, the average American is totally ignorant of the cost (to oceans, marine life, and the eco-system at large) of single-use, disposable plastic containers.   Corporations, through manufactured demand, have trained consumers to "need" single use disposable plastic contains at a break neck pace.  My mission is to help people understand how their individual choices of convenience impact the environment and how easy it is to make alternative, environmentally conscious choices. 

Pam Longobordi

In 2006, after discovering the mountainous piles of plastic debris the ocean was depositing on the remote shores of Hawaii, I began collecting and utilizing this plastic as my primary material.  Since then, I have made scores of interventions, cleaning beaches and making collections from all over the world, removing thousands of pounds of material from the natural environment and re-situating it within the cultural context for examination. These collection missions are often done solo, as part of my process.  I approach the sites as a forensic scientist, examining and documenting the deposition as it lay, collecting and identifying the evidence of the crime.

Plastic objects are the cultural archeology of our time.  These objects I see as a portrait of global late-capitalist consumer society, mirroring our desires, wishes, hubris and ingenuity.  These are objects with unintended consequences that become transformed as they leave the quotidian world and collide with nature to be transformed, transported and regurgitated out of the shifting oceans.  The ocean is communicating with us through the materials of our own making.  The plastic elements initially seem attractive and innocuous, like toys, some with an eerie familiarity and some totally alien.  At first, the plastic seems innocent and fun, but it is not.  It is dangerous.   We are remaking the world in plastic, in our own image, this toxic legacy, this surrogate, this imposter.

Even though my previous work involved heavily constructed painting-objects, I consciously avoid commodifying this work into a luxury object, preferring to keep it in a transitive form as installation.  All of the work can be dismantled, reconfigured but nearly impossibly recycled.  The objects are presented as specimens on steel pins.

The Bottle Project,  public art for Sunken Garden Park, Atlanta, 2008
made from 2500 reclaimed water bottles
City of Atlanta, A (new) Genre Landscape


"Reedy River Web" 2011, 45 ft. x 12 ft
Plastic taken from the Reedy River, Greenville, SC
Project done for Greenville County Parks with Governor's School for the Arts

Sappho's Mirrors I and II  2010, found ocean plastic, each 96" x 48" x 5", installed at Primo Piano LivingGallery, Lecce, Italy


Consumption Driftweb (Self-proclaiming Material Snare)
Found ocean plastic and driftnet from Hawaii, Florida Everglades and New Bedford, MA


One World Ocean
Ionion Center for Art and Culture, 
Kefalonia, Greece


Ghosts of Consumption (for Piet M.) 2011
found ocean plastic
110" x 75" x 5"


Tess Felix

The huge storm in February, 2010 washed tons of plastic garbage out of the Sacramento Delta and flooded the shores of Stinson Beach completely with colorful fragments of plastic. Shocking was the sight. The beach looked like a mosaic. I picked up some garbage that day, went home and made a portrait out of the plastic. I returned the portrait to a little shack on the beach as a gift back to the sea. Someone found it and took it home, so I made another one. This is how the  plastic debris portraits came to be.

Fortunately, while the garbaged beach reminded me that we consumers are destroying our environment, I also saw shapes, color, and a potential to create something positive. I wanted to give order and meaning to it. The new medium was exciting to work with. It reflects my passion as a painter. I continue to roam the beach picking up bits and pieces of plasticto clean, sort  by color and turn into portraits.


Josie Iselin

This collage, by San Francisco artist Josie Iselin, was made using debris I collected at Kehoe Beach and is included in her latest book, Beach: A Book of Treasure. Josie usually works with organic materials, creating beautiful images from rocks, shells, wood, plants. But as she asks in Beach, "Can trash be treasure?" To learn more about her work, visit:

Judith Selby Lang and Richard Lang

Judith Selby Lang and Richard Lang
are a collaborative team. Their love of nature is combined with their interest in science to produce an on-going series of art works about the oceans and the environment. While the content of their work has a message about the spoiling of the natural world by the industrial world, their final intent is aesthetic and celebratory.

Photo (bottom, right): Judith and Richard Lang (detail: Micky's Monkey 2008)