I have lived my life with plastic. I’ve used Tupperware, saran wrap, water bottles, toys, and tools. I have a yellow plastic flower pot that is 45 years old. I remember the film, The Graduate, when Mr. Mcguire offering Benjamin one word for his future, said “Plastics. There’s a great future in it.” But today I’m living with plastic guilt.
Plastic is terrific stuff, its lightweight, durable, colorful and so malleable it can be made into practically anything. But it doesn’t go away, it doesn’t break down, it doesn’t compost. There is so much of it and it is everywhere. I recycle, my city, Mesa, AZ has had a recycling program for decades. Yet the world is suffering from plastic, there are piles of it, islands of it, forests and beaches littered with it. Perhaps you can relate? I don’t know what can be done to really manage this major problem but every now and then plastic blooms.
Recently I traveled in the Caribbean Sea for the first time. I don’t have a lot of island experience, so there were many discoveries to be made. Beyond the tropical plants, white sand beaches, and palm trees some practical issues appear. What do you do with the trash? Where does it go? Well, you can add car skeletons to the top of a shipping container and paint it to announce a celebration. You can stack it, store it, bury it, pack it into shipping containers to be hauled off to another country for recycling.
Curaçao, a Dutch Caribbean island is full of color with its architecture of row houses. Murals cover the walls of old buildings. Beyond the main tourist areas, we found a community center/art gallery trying to improve the lives of the local residents. Plastic is involved. Children have fashioned plastic into their own artistic creations.
The major sculpture of the garden is a giant fish filled with plastic pieces in all colors and shapes. As a finished form it grabs your attention but after staring at it a little while I began to wonder, “How much plastic trash was collected to make this? How long did it take? I bet it didn’t take long at all.” These individual creations represent a fun afternoon workshop. It also raises the larger question again, what do we do with all this plastic trash?
Currently, at the DBG there is an exhibition in the gallery of Dorrance Hall of recycled industrial plastics, and waste. Sounds dreary but it is anything but. Michelle Stitzlein has imaginatively fashioned a green wall of industrial blooms. What would you make with garden hoses, prescription bottles, slide trays, video cables, electrical wire, piano keys, pan lids, lightbulbs, reflectors, bottle caps, zip ties, and license plates? I’d likely have a pile of stuff that would get pushed around and eventually thrown “away,” but in this Industrial Nature Bloom, we have flowers and butterflies.
Look closely at these enormous collages made from a mess into marvelous. How imaginative, how physically demanding, how much collecting and organizing to assemble these pieces before something so surprising can be formed. It is art that fascinates and disturbs at the same instant. Michelle Stitzlein is an amazing artist, she is inventive, resourceful, thoughtful and magical. “She has assisted children all over the US to make colorful murals and whimsical outdoor sculptures by beautifying thousands of bottle caps that would otherwise end up in a landfill.” (from display @DBG) Seeing her work speaks to the child in all of us where creativity flowers. I appreciate all of these examples, but I still have plastic guilt. . . .and I have a collection of prescription bottles that I might try making into a flower.
Desert Botanical Garden NEW BLOOM: Industrial Nature by Michelle Stitzlein DATES: February 1, 2019 – May 5, 2019TIMES: 10:00 am – 5:00 pmPRICE: Free with general admission.