How do you delight and educate about the oceans’ worst predator – plastic waste – to encourage people to change their buying habits, and how they handle their plastic waste? Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea is a powerful exhibition of 17 sea creatures – from parrotfish to shark – now on view at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington DC (through September 5), with a second version at the Georgia Aquarium (through September 25), a reminder that our flipflops, bottle caps, plastic pails and nets are forming great gyres of waste on multiple oceans and threaten the well-being of all marine creatures. Everything in Washed Ashore is made from plastic taken out of the sea.
Angela Haseltine Pozzi, the Oregon-based, brilliant artist-creator of these creatures, works with a team of volunteers that have collected trash (thousands of pounds) from the Oregon coastline and turns it into whimsical and authentic-looking sea life – from parrot fish to shark, sea turtle to whale skeleton. The marine life on display is larger than life. Priscilla the Parrot Fish is 10 feet high by 16 feet in length, and then there’s Flash, the marlin. Others include a seal, shark, sea turtle, and whale skeleton among the artworks that Washed Ashore has created.
Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea has a message behind it: Humans are responsible for the waste we generate and how we dispose of it. Washed Ashore was set up as a nonprofit to educate people about the threats to marine life and birds from plastic. Animals can get entangled in nets and piles of trash. Some marine life see the plastic particles as food and proceed to eat them. Dead birds have been autopsied and a batch of plastic bits found in their stomachs.
In addition to viewing these beautiful, larger-than-life sculptures, Washed Ashore provides information for families and kids on how to reduce your consumption of plastic and how to properly dispose of it (don’t leave anything behind at the beach, thank you!)
More displays of Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea are coming: Opening September 24 at the Denver Zoo; and in 2017, Port Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (Takoma Washington), Reiman Gardens (May 2017) in Ames Iowa.
Watch (below) Haseltine Pozzi discussing the making of Turtle Ocean, now on display at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum.