Yesterday, June 8, was world Oceans Day.
World Oceans Day “is a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future. This year’s theme is ‘Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet,’ and individuals and organizations across the planet are taking action for prevention of plastic pollution in our ocean.”
Immediately, brilliant northwest artist and friend Karen Hackenberg of Port Townsend, Washington, comes to mind. She paints gorgeous seascapes in which she juxtaposes man-made detritus she finds washed up on the beach.
She describes it best in her Artist Statement:
In my ongoing painting series, Watershed,
I take a light-hearted yet subversive approach to the serious subject of ocean degradation, presenting a tongue-in-cheek taxonomy of our new post-consumer creatures of the sea. Influenced by the ideas of Pop artists Claes Oldenburg, Ed Ruscha and Andy Warhol, and the high-contrast light of Edward Hopper, I meticulously paint seascapes in oil and gouache, lovingly crafting beautiful images of conventionally ugly beach cast-offs, and aiming to create provocative visual juxtapositions of form and idea.
The Watershed paintings are inspired by the incongruity of the man-made detritus found washed up on the otherwise pristine shores near my Discovery Bay WA studio; the plastic shards and PETE water bottles, plastic bags, the mismatched running shoes, the foggy plastic water bottles, the throw-away lighters, the frayed lengths of nylon rope, the spent shotgun shells, to name but a few. I collect this local flotsam as it bobs in on the waves from far and near, and with my ear to the sand for a close view, I pose and photograph it on the beach where it strands. The resulting seascape compositions depict the beach trash as monolithic, thereby providing a visual metaphor for the overwhelming magnitude of the issue of marine debris.
Along with global pollution, over-consumption of fish have resulted in drastically dwindling populations of species.
Jeweler and painter Kathleen Faulkner of Skagit Valley is another artist I greatly admire. She, too, is doing beautiful work that engages with the issues of our time. And, of course, there are so many others.
In my own photographic work, the landscape dominates, and though it may not always be explicit, the changing landscape is a beneath-the-surface theme. A new project just underway, inspired by W. S. Merwin’s poem “For a Coming Extinction,” responds to the earth’s advancing desertification due to global warming.
World Oceans Day give us a chance to ponder what personal action we might take on behalf of this disastrous consequence.
Though many argue that the function of art isn’t to take on the responsibility of altering opinions, art does awaken sensibilities. For that alone, art matters. It makes the world a better place.
Artists are important to society. I believe we should be weighing in on the times in which we live.Ghost Tree, Salton Sea. Photograph © Jane Alynn.