Before moving to Minnesota I spent much of my childhood in California. I have very happy memories of waking up to find strange plastic toys on my bedside table, the treasures my mother had gleaned from her morning walk on the beach.
Richard and Judith Lang also take walks on the beach, and they also collect small pieces of plastic. Tens of thousands of them, from a stretch of Kehoe Beach in Northern California. And then they turn the plastic into art.
Image: Richard and Judith Lang
The couple writes on their website:
Certain items would catch our interest: milk jug lids, combs, toy soldiers, disposable lighters, cheese spreaders from lunch snack packs. We were attracted to things that would show by their numbers and commonness what is happening in the oceans around the world.
The plastic we continue to find is not left by visitors; it is washing up from the ocean. Back in our studios we clean, sort and categorize the pieces according to color and kind. We use the plastic to make artworks including large sculptures, installations, photo tableaus and jewelry.
The Langs’ work has been shown at SFMOMA, the Berkeley Art Center, and other artistic venues.
But of course, while beautiful, the underlying message is a disturbing one. Their work shows that no matter where we throw our trash, there is really no such place as “away.”