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Art that saves the sea: Washed Ashore

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

Ocean litter is a great source of inspiration for this group of American artists. Their colorful works tell contemporary marine life in an environmentally sustainable perspective.

The non-profit organization “Washed Ashore” encloses a group of artists and volunteers who are sensitive to environmental issues. They collect the garbage carried by the waves of the ocean on the beaches of Oregon and transform it, creating sculptures of animals whose life is endangered by the trash they are made of. The favorite subjects for the works are all those animals that characterize the marine and coastal habitats, and that everyday risk to perish because of plastic waste now ubiquitous in the oceanic environments.

Washed Ashore

The project Washed Ashore was born from the idea of a woman, Angela Haseltine Pozzi. The artistic evolution of Angela took place when she noticed the pollution present on the beaches, once immaculate, southern Oregon. After being informed and having understood the possible implications of plastic debris on marine flora and fauna, she gave rise to the non-profit organization. The artistic creation begins on the coast, where groups of volunteers organize cleanups to collect the material useful for the composition of the sculptures. The artists subsequently join the pieces inside workshops, where they glue, weld and create the final works. A third and final phase includes the exhibition of the works in places of public interest such as parks, museums and squares.

We’ve cleaned up 26 tons off the beaches,” Ms. Haseltine Pozzi said, which isn’t a dent in the actual pollution issue, but we’re doing something by raising awareness and waking people up.”

The sculptures

In the last decade, Washed Ashore collected these 26 tons of waste, washed them, and then gave rise to more than 70 large-scale sculptures depicting a multitude of animals. They are an expression of a colorful and dynamic nature, which draws attention to itself. “Octavia the Octopus”, “Edward the Leatherback Turtle” and “Daisy the Polar Bearare just some examples of these sustainable works of art.

The originality of these compositions, other than the production material, lies in the bright colors that attract attention. The simple and defined shapes of the animals draw attention to the subject, leaving room for the observer to reflect on the true meaning of the sculpture. The animals represented are all endangered species because of the abandoned plastic that arrives in the oceans. Fish, birds and other sea dwellers are the main focus of this artistic trend. The works are exhibited in museums in several American cities. The ultimate goal of the artists is that the sculptures are seen by as many people as possible to raise awareness of this contemporary problem.

We’re not here to blame anybody or to point fingers,” Angela said of plastic pollution. “We basically invite the Buddhists and the Baptists, and the rednecks and the hippies, and the Republicans and the Democrats, and they all sit around the table and they all work together on something, which doesn’t happen enough in our world.”

Nevertheless, the artistic provocation is clear: the animals of the works are made of the same materials that threaten their survival in nature. The message behind the creative compositions reflects an idea of a circular economy: the waste discarded by society is recovered by the artists of Washed Ashore and brought back to the places from which they come: the cities. Although those materials were once considered mere rubbish, now they are transformed into new forms and purposes, becoming a symbol for citizens and acquiring great value for society.



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