Flotsam and Jetsom at Locust Projects

Flotsam was an exhibition about trash and the sea. In the 1990s before we had official knowledge of huge environmental disasters like the Pacific Garbage Patch, there was already plenty of plastic floating in the ocean. The news was filled with stories about containers spilling massive quantities of tennis shoes and Legos into the water where they perpetually followed the ocean currents around the world. This exhibition is a record of my thoughts about these issues filtered through my time spent in the brightly colored consumer culture of Miami Beach.

Included works:

 

1) Three 10 inch photo transfers of wooden sailor’s heads weeping for the sea. The original sailors were carved by my dad, a WWII Navy veteran, and painted to a poignant folk art finish by my mother. They were mounted on the wall at nine feet high and a single drop of blue/green ink ran from their eyes down the wall to the floor.

 

2) A large beautiful conch shell purchased with a “Made in Haiti” sticker on it and filled with several little hands that I had carved from dead coral that I found on the beach. I picked it out of a large barrel of shells and wondered if any Haitians were fed with the dollar that I paid for it and if any shells were left on the beach.

 

3) A “school” of pink clip art sharks printed onto shiny metallic mylar and placed in a corner of the space making a triangular shape. I’m frequently fascinated by extremely distorted representations of actual creatures and things. Anthropomorphizing or characterizing a creature so that it is “safe” for humans often requires stripping an animal of it’s power, otherness, and/or dignity. The metallic mylar cast reflective shapes like light in water. 

 

4) A pair of green ”algae” flocked NIKE tennis shoes mounted to the wall with a handwritten note card describing a massive spill of shoes in the ocean and some information about where they had washed ashore. Handwriting is about personal connection for me and I had started to feel desensitized by the news of repeated spills of “goods”.  I was sure that the Goddess Nike was sadly claiming victory over the natural world.

 

5) A floor sculpture made of four square green flocked fans with fluorescent orange power cords hanging from the ceiling. This piece was made to create the feeling of an ocean breeze in the oppressively hot and still space. I also wanted to reference notions about harnessing energy from ocean currents by installing fans on the ocean floor. Box fans create a lot of machine-made noise and carry the childhood fear that you could get your fingers cut if you handled them incorrectly.

 

6) A broken cast concrete life ring that I placed around one of the support beams symbolizing the rescue of refugees from the dangers of the sea only to send them back to the desperate home situation that they were fleeing.

 

7) A toy mechanical seagull that flew around and around in a circle on a piece of fishing wire. ( I bought this piece in a drug store and I included it because I was always disturbed by stories of kids catching seagulls by putting a hook in a piece of bread and throwing it into the air. Definitely not a mobile that I would want in my room….)

 

8) An Ocean wave made from plastic bags:

I had worked a deal where I was given several rolls of light green plastic garbage bags that were used by the city of Los Angeles for public trash bins. These were special bags because they have the same light green color as the ocean in Miami.  I had the idea that I would make a towering wave along the back wall of the space from these bags and some of the quirky trash objects that I had made would emerge (wash to shore) along the edge of the wave. These objects included:

  1. Sea Hag Fingers: Found finger-shaped sea sponges that I glued artificial nails onto. ( My tribute to beauty culture and aging beach bunnies.)

  2. A  4 ft long Cruise ship made from packing peanuts.

3)  A Tide box and other containers with aquarium plants glued to the tops.

4)  A “barnacle” cluster of kid-sized milk cartons, digitally manipulated to have a frowning face at the opening of the carton and printed in green ink. (Children are the ones most             affected by irresponsible ecological policies and practices.)

5) Lots of Legos

6) Probably some other stuff I’ve forgotten about!

 

I painted the wall behind the wave fluorescent yellow to create the blinding effect of the mid-day sun on the water and I suspended a series of octopi made from pink packing peanuts on fishing wire from the ceiling that swayed around on the breeze created by the fan sculpture. Along the other wall of the space where the wave hit the corner of the room, there were large shiny prints of plastic aquarium kelp. 

 

9) A 16x20” photograph of me washed up on the beach in California with various pieces of trash and party balloons.

 

10) A set of four 5”x7” white drawings on black paper of tennis shoes with various strange and fantastic things that one might find in the darkness at the bottom of the sea including an angler fish, an overweight merman, and an astronaut.

 

11) a small print of a still from “Jaws” showing people terrified and running from the ocean.