Nova Scotian artist turns ocean trash into treasure
Seeing beauty in plastic might help us waste less, artist Jennifer MacLatchy says
When Jennifer MacLatchy walks along Nova Scotia's beaches, she isn't looking for pretty shells or stones, like your typical beachcomber. Instead, she's looking for garbage. Garbage to turn into art.
When the sun catches them, they're just luminous. Kind of beautiful — in a terrible way.- Jennifer MacLatchy describing balls of fishing line washed up on the beach.
The 33-year-old, who presented her work at the Sixth International Marine Debris Conference in San Diego on March 14, said she wants to clean the shore up, and seeing the beauty in the junk that washes up on the sand keeps her motivated.
MacLatchy, who is working on an interdisciplinary PhD in art and the environment at Dalhousie University in Halifax, also hopes that by elevating ocean garbage into art, people might start thinking twice about what they're throwing away — and where it might end up.
On her regular beach walks, MacLatchy finds lots of bottle caps, lobster trap tags, bullet shells, fishing line and rope.
She's also found half a MacBook computer, a piece of a Mazda bumper and a fridge.
MacLatchy started arranging her finds and posting photos of the montages on Instagram, under the title Ocean Treasures, about three years ago, as a way to archive what she found.
She has also experimented with weaving found rope into baskets and crocheting found plastic into sculpture.
MacLatchy said she makes her art to bring attention to all of the garbage in the ocean, but also to give herself a sense of accomplishment in the face of futility.
"You clean up one area," she said, "and then the tide comes in and you've got to clean it up again."
We need to change the way we think about plastics in particular, MacLatchy said, so that we aren't so quick to throw it away.
If you use plastic in your daily life, "some of it is ending up in the ocean," she said, "no matter how you go about disposing of it."
That idea can make you feel "really depressed and hopeless," MacLatchy said, unless you turn it on its head, and try to think of plastic as treasure instead of trash.
"Plastic is going to exist forever," she said, "so we should do something with it that makes it valuable."
You could look at balls of tangled fishing line as a mess and possible hazard, MacLatchy said. Or you could choose, instead, to focus on how they catch the light when the sun shines.
"They're just luminous," she said. "Kind of beautiful — in a terrible way."
Listen to the sounds of a recent beach walk with Jennifer MacLatchy here:
With files from CBC's Information Morning