Going up the mountain March 27, 2012

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”  Dr. Seuss

My truck is full of plastic lids, straws, and bottles

Tomorrow, I travel up to Boone, NC to Appalachian State University to begin my residency at The Turchin Center for the Arts.  With the help of staff and students I will make an installation entitled STUFF: Where Does It Come From and Where Does it Go? The Turchin Center was a church before it became an art center and it is a lovely building.  The exhibition space has high ceilings and large windows.  The staff have been collecting, or it sounds like corralling, lots of plastic water bottles to fill the windows.  I am bringing my  collection of ubiquitous plastic lids and straws which I see everywhere, and this year have been picking up.  I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work in such a beautiful space and I know it will be a privilege to work with the students as well.  What will the results of our endeavors be?  Stay tuned as we all find out.

coral reef complete with plastic fish and plastic seaweed

Last week, I helped the 3rd and 4th grade students of  Chocwinity Primary School in eastern NC make a coral reef out of plastic bottles.  We used lots and lots of PETE bottles, mostly water, but some soda, and made a very beautiful installation.  The students made schools of plastic fish and lots of plastic seaweed.  We had lots of fun transforming a breezeway in the school to an underwater grotto.

Where do all these bottles come from?  Do any of you remember the advent of curbside recycling?   I do and in my hometown of Durham, NC it was over 20 years ago.  I also remember that in the beginning, plastic was controversial.   Our  recycling trucks did not pick it up because there were no markets for it.  And the recycling of it was not full circle, mostly meaning that it would be down-cycled into another object but not recycled into itself over and over.   Many more things were in glass containers.  By now, plastic containers are such a part of our culture that most people assume that we could never live without them.  Here is the thing–plastic is recyclable, it is just not biodegradable.  It comes out of the earth and does not go back into it like leaves from a tree or rain to the ocean.  I am thinking that what may change our point of view on our over use of plastic might be the rising cost of the petroleum that it is made of.  Plastic and gasoline are mostly from the same source.  Petroleum is an extremely valuable and non-renewable resource.  Plastic, made to use once, to fit our single-use life style, is just not the value it seems.

Okay okay, I bet you have heard me say all of that before.  Yes, and it is still true.  Here is some interesting news sent to me by my friend Sarah B., one of the best collectors of stuff in my life.  A bunch of colleges in the northeast have begun to ban plastic bottles from their campuses.   Hummm….Now isn’t that interesting?

Meanwhile, grab your reusable water bottle and come on by the Turchin Center to see our show.  We welcome you.

2 Comments
Lynn March 29th, 2012

Hello! I hope to make it up to Boone from Asheville to see you show. It sounds great!

Wen Redmond April 19th, 2012

looks like a terrific exhibit and timely too.
I just learned that it’s not even really big chunks of plastic floating around but when plastic gets old, it crumbles and becomes tiny bits of plastic that are easily swallowed.

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