Homer Alaska - Arts

Story last updated at 3:25 PM on Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Washed Ashore art project starts

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


Photo by Michael Armstrong

Washed Ashore lead artist and diretor Angela Haseltine Pozzi, left, helps Bill Palmer, center, and Brennan Palmer create a sea anemone sculpture made out of marine debris at a workshop for the Homer Washed Ashore Project. A styrofoam buoy used in the art was found on the Diamond Creek beach near Homer and is suspected to have come from the Japanese tsunami.

In 2007, volunteers and workers cleaned up 40,000 pounds of marine debris at Gore Point. Except for a pick up truck of buoys salvaged by a local fisherman, most of it went into the Homer dump.

Two weeks ago, Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies special programs director Patrick Chandler returned from a marine debris clean up at Montague Island. Working with the Gulf of Alaska Keeper, the project was the first major attempt to assess the impact of Japanese tsunami debris on Alaska beaches. Chandler came back with 4,000 pounds of marine debris. An estimated 1 million tons of tsunami debris are floating in the Pacific Ocean, with much of that expected to wash up on United States and Canada beaches.

This time, Homer environmentalists plan to be more creative with marine debris. The goal? Not only to clean up local beaches over the next year, including during the annual CACS CoastWalk clean up, but to repurpose every buoy, every water bottle and every scrap of debris found into monumental community art.

Working with lead artist and director Angela Haseltine Pozzi of the Washed Ashore Project in Bandon, Ore., CACS has set up a satellite Washed Ashore project in Homer. In a rented garage at the corner of East End Road and Kachemak Drive, volunteers will clean, sort and assemble sculptures. The more debris, the more sculptures.

"Whatever scraps there are, we will find a use for," Chandler said.

At Haseltine Pozzi's studio in Bandon, visitors often stop to have their photos taken with sculptures like Henry the Fish or Avery the Bird because, well, they're so cool.

"The whole idea is to make it so big and fantastic, everyone will want to talk about it," Haseltine Pozzi said. "It's all garbage off the beaches. They stop in for coffee and get an education."

Sorting washed marine debris into baskets of colorful plastic, she creates an artist's palette. The plastic gets cut and drilled and put together with wire. Some pieces, like the tentacles of a sea anemone, get strung together like beads. At a workshop on Sunday, Haseltine Pozzi showed how to cut into curved pieces of clear plastic water bottles, including some from the Beijing 2008 Olympics found far away from China. The idea is to alter the debris to fit the sculpture, but leave enough to make it recognizable.

"Keeping parts of it make people know where it came from," Haseltine Pozzi said.

One sculpture, the Gyre, will be strands of bright, colorful debris that from a distance looks like a three-dimension mosaic and close up, well, bits of trash.

"There's this balance of beautiful and horrifying," Haseltine Pozzi said.

Washed Ashore sculptures Haseltine Pozzi has facilitated often are animals, like a fish, a bird and a turtle. The turtle has a net around its neck to show the problem of wildlife entanglement. Other pieces are more abstract, like a whale rib cage made of white plastic, a reef made of Styrofoam pieces and Spill, a big blob of black plastic. All are designed to be interactive. Some sculptures are musical instruments, like a sea star marimba.

"Art for art's sake," Haseltine Pozzi called it. "Art for life's sake."

Like any art, a lot of the Homer Washed Ashore Project involves grunt work — the equivalent of mixing paints and stretching canvas.

"It won't be just creating art," Chandler said. "We will need a lot of work processing what's there."

Not only does debris need to be hauled off beaches, it needs to be cleaned and sorted. At Sunday's workshop, Haseltine Pozzi gave volunteers a taste of the tedium — but also the fun. At times it felt like a quilting bee, with people chatting as they cut off the bottoms of water bottles, punched holes in them and connected them with wire. Those will be the skin on the head of an 8-foot wide sea jelly.

I helped two children attach wire grid to a rebar frame built by Tarri Thurman of Moose Run Metalsmiths. Inside and out, the half-dome will be covered by marine debris. In another corner Bill and Brennan Palmer strung cut up water bottles on wire stuck in a Styrofoam buoy that probably came from the tsunami — the same buoy I hauled up from the Diamond Creek beach in March. Chandler brought back five similar buoys from Montague Island, and saw hundreds more, so there will be lots of material for sculptures.

"The thing about this project is you're all working together," Haseltine Pozzi said. "You'll kind of depend on each other. What's fun is this will grow."

Chandler said CACS plans to make a sea jelly, several anemones, a gyre, an intertidal zone, a giant halibut and maybe a marimba. Next month, CACS will have a Dumpster to collect marine debris at its Lake Street office. From 1 to 5 p.m. every Sunday through July and August, volunteers can visit the Washed Ashore Project headquarters on East End Road to help out. Haseltine Pozzi worked with student artists this week with the Homer Council on the Arts, and returns in September for CoastWalk.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.