how to be responsible AND not grow up

how to be responsible AND not grow up?

Best answer: ART!

People engaged in the creative process allow themselves to play regularly–with ideas, materials, colors, shapes, words, sounds, movements; looking for some combination that grabs them.  They create something that stands outside themselves but resonates strongly with who or where they are in that moment.  The effect of art on its maker and its audience is mysterious, evolving, and difficult to adequately encapsulate in words.

This week’s post is inspired by a link sent to me by Oed Ronne (artist, guitarist/keyboardist/singer in the Ocean Blue and Wednesday Post reader!  woot woot!) It is an 8 minute movie highlighting the work of scrap plastic artists Richard and Judith Lang called “One Plastic Beach.”

I’m inspired by the light touch with which the Langs deal with a potentially overwhelming environmental issue: the longevity and proliferation of our plastic garbage.  They lovingly collect, clean, and classify bits of plastic that wash up on one stretch of beach in Northern California; and use these materials as an ongoing medium for art.

Their results colorfully, anthropologically, wistfully, and critically offer a playful way for the artist and audience to contemplate our collective plastic cultural artifacts.  The delight they derive from their process is palpable; but it doesn’t make them oblivious to the sobering undercurrent of their art, or of the need to be more discriminating in how we use plastic.

After the Langs found hundreds of uniform red plastic rectangles in varying stages of decay, Richard’s daughter helped identify the mysterious objects as the cheese spreaders in Kraft Handi Snacks.

“We’ve been in a dialogue with Kraft Foods about these things,” Richard says.  “Because the idea is that plastic in itself is not evil. But there is an evil, and the evil is single-use plastic.  You know, just scrape up your cheese, put it on your little cracker, and just toss it away.  That’s just a ridiculous use of material.”

As you may know, I think about the environment a lot.  I genuinely believe–not that the sky is falling–but that we are polluting and depleting the resources of our world at a rate that is dangerous to our well being.  I also believe that this is an amazing time to be alive, and that the process of exercising environmental caution before barreling ahead should not put a damper on life; it should deepen our understanding and make us appreciate life all the more.

I am struck by the almost celebratory approach the Langs take toward the discarded plastic in their art.

“Why wouldn’t we want to make something incredibly beautiful and enticing?” Judith says.

“The opposite of beauty is not ugly,” Richard adds.  “The opposite of beauty is indifference.  And we’re trying not to be indifferent about this and about the world.”

Art is therapeutic.  It opens your mind to new ways of seeing life, and new ways of solving problems.  The art that gets to me might be disturbing or decorative, melancholy or exuberant; the common factor is that it makes me feel somehow more alive.  If you are a child, or were once; then you are an artist–whether active or latent.  If you are an active artist, you already know what I mean.  If you are a latent artist, ACTIVATE!

Thanks for reading the Wednesday Post.


2 responses to “how to be responsible AND not grow up

  1. Thanks for sharing. This video and art work is both extremely troublesome and inspiring to me (as an artist, a collector, and an environmentalist)

    • Hi Jane! I’m glad this post spoke to you. Because single use plastic is on my mind a lot, the Lang’s work is actually soothing to me. It’s like oh! someone else is thinking about this too. They are addressing it in their art yet they don’t seem bogged down by it. Something about their playfulness reminds me that I shouldn’t let environmental concerns get the better of me. I should do keep doing what I can, and keep enjoying life. Nice.

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