Whatever an artist’s creative vision – they see the world through a different lens. Yes, some want to create an aesthetic experience and some want to make us think… or do both. I’ve always been curious about found art, those random bits and pieces of our lives tossed aside, left by the road or lying on the beach – only to be resurrected as art by a curious eye and inventive hand.
But plastic? It’s so commonplace we don’t even think about it – although we probably couldn’t survive without it. Still, it seems to be a strange medium for an artist to work with.
Plastic is so trivial it’s just part of our disposable lifestyle. That’s what we do, we cast it away without a moment’s thought. Or maybe recycle it. Either way, an amazing amount of the stuff winds up in our oceans.
By a fluke of the ocean currents there’s a constant stream of plastic bits washing ashore at Kehoe Beach, part of Point Reyes National Seashore. That’s where our story begins.
This is a tale of two California artists, Judith and Richard Lang, who make art from the plastic debris they find as they wander the seashore at Kehoe Beach. Smithsonian Magazine describes how they got started:
In 1999, Richard and Judith had their first date on this Northern California beach. Both were already accomplished artists who had taught watercolor classes at the University of California and shown their work in San Francisco galleries. And both (unbeknown to each other) had been collecting beach plastic for years.
Richard: “This is a love story. Our passion is not only plastic but each other. We could never have imagined, on that day, what an incredible life would unfold—picking up other people’s garbage.”
Judith: “But it’s pretty sad to see this plastic strewn all over the beach. And it’s so recent. I remember going to the beach as a child; I never saw plastic. This problem has washed into our lives—and it’s not going to wash out any time soon.”
There are several videos about the Langs and their work. I like the one below the best, it’s well shot, nicely edited and they talk about their artistic journey, their found medium and why they try to make beautiful work from all that plastic junk.
I like what Judith says in the video about thinking of each plastic shard as a brush stroke. It gets to the artist’s creative vision to see several things as true at once – which gives their work depth and punch – drawing us in and making us think. We’re struck by the beauty of the images and, as we muse about what they represent, are fascinated and repelled at the same time. I especially like their chroma series because the color palette takes the abstraction to a deeper level. The chroma series also recalls Louise Nevelson’s sculpted wood assemblages.
For me, what’s powerful about their creative effort is seeing them think outside the box. And, as artists, discovering a way to fashion work that’s surprising, moving, and meaningful.
Does their work have that affect on you too? How do you feel about what they’re doing? Do you connect with their art? Leave a comment.