Friday, September 2, 2016

Imagine Your Park, Imagine The Art

Now that the summer is coming to a close, I have found a moment to update my blog. There was so much happening this summer with an exciting project at Sandy Hook National Park that began in October, 2016 and will culminate during the weekend of September 17-18, 2017. 




The project, which is spearheaded by Monmouth Arts, is titled "Imagine Your Park, Imagine The Art." Including myself, there are three other artists involved , Angeles CassioManda Gorsegner, and Lisa Bagwell, and each of us has been paired with an environmental group to find inspiration. Monmouth Arts has collaborated with the U.S. National Park Service, Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook Unit, NJ on  Gateway to the Arts to engage the public in our local national park through the visual  arts. Imagine Your Park is a grant initiative from the National Endowment for the Arts created in partnership with the National Park Service to support projects that use the arts to engage people with memorable places and landscapes of the National Park System.

photos courtesy of Manda Gorsegner
In October, 2015 and April 2016,  Manda, Angeles and I participated in Clean OceanAction's Beach Sweeps. The garbage collected from that sweep was what we used to make our works.
photos courtesy of Manda Gorsegner

The studios for this project were located at Fort Hancock, in the basement of the ranger station. My nickname for the place was the dungeon - because that is pretty much what it resembled. Fort Hancock is a decommissioned military base - with the abandoned buildings it reminds me of something from the Walking Dead.




My first attempt at making this work was to sew plastic water bottle together. There were so many water bottles collected on the beach! The idea was really great - the water bottles created this elegant sinuous line but unfortunately, it didn't hold up in a  summer rain storm. Then, I remember hearing my professor Paul Hubbard's voice  in my head  telling me to go big.  He always had encouraged me to go beyond my comfort zone and push my personal boundaries. 
large pieces of foam getting prepped in the basement studio

So I headed back to our storage room of collected debris and saw the biggest item - plastic foam- you may know it as Styrofoam. 


photos courtesy http://www.monmoutharts.org

Styrofoam is the common brand name of Polystyrene, which is a petroleum-based plastic. This Polystyrene might really last forever.  It is resistant to photolysis, or the breaking down of materials by photons originating from a light source. From my research, I have learned that the quantity of marine debris is increasing in oceans worldwide and the foam products transport pollutants around the world. In addition, the problem associated with foam is that they often fragment into small pieces once in the ocean, where fish, sea turtles or seabirds can mistakenly eat the tiny bits.


photo courtesy: http://www.monmoutharts.org

I coated the plastic foam with a plaster to hold in the bits that could break off to prevent any further contamination into the environment. 
photo courtesy: http://www.monmoutharts.org
At this point, I needed a way to get the pieces into the outdoor space in parking lot D at Sandy Hook. This  area  of the walled sandy hill was planned for my work. Behind the wall are picnic tables, outdoor shower facilities, bathrooms, and on the bricked area are usually food trucks. In other words - this is a very public space! My past experiences with public sculpture have taught me that the public loves to touch the artwork - sometimes too much. You can read about that experience here. 



I finally settled on rebar and concrete poured into plastic food buckets donated by Del Ponte's Bakery in Bradley Beach.  After seeing a bridge built for the past year or so, I felt that I had a decent understanding of how rebar works and the strength it can provide. Strength and stability are an important factor in this project because this is the Jersey Shore where we can any number of high winds, hurricanes, nor'easter and strong summer storms. 


I then had to dig these buckets into the ground and push  the foam sculptures into the rebar.



photo courtesy: http://www.monmoutharts.org


After three installations, the work was finally complete. I also added an orange debris boom to the installation. This was my favorite find from the April 2016 beach sweep. It took Angeles , me and 8 young men  from M.A.S.T. to haul the heavy wet boom up a hill and into the back of my pickup truck. Besides the great adventure, orange is my favorite color and that boom added a great line of color that connected the piece. 

There is a wonderful sign at the location and I will be on site for the Zero Waste Festival which will be held on Sept. 17 & 18 at Sandy Hook National Park. Zero Waste Arts Fest (ZWAF) will engage diverse communities through an array of arts, environmental and historical education activities, public art and battery tours, games, arts and food vendors, and overall free family fun! Shuttles will be available to take people to the three public art locations on Sandy Hook and to Battery Gunnison for historical tours provided by the Army Ground Forces Association. 
photo courtesy http://www.mckayimaging.com















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