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Washed Up – A Creative Contribution to Plastic Pollution Reduction

By Michael Faulds

While browsing posts addressing plastic pollution on Pinterest.com I came across some artwork done by artist Alejandro Duran.  I was immediately taken in by the startling beauty this man has created from washed up garbage!  Duran is a photographer, filmmaker, poet and educator working currently at the International Center of Photography and The Museum of Modern Art.  With his latest project titled “Washed Up”, he has taken on the responsibility of demonstrating to the world, through art, the disastrous effects of plastic pollution.  His art is described as “color-based, site-specific sculptures that conflate the hand of man and nature, distributing the objects the way the waves would, like wind-scattered seed or roots tunneling through soil, echoing the organic forms of the surrounding landscape”. (http://www.washed-up-project.com) It delivers a meaningful message to which we should all pay attention.  I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Duran over the phone and he told me he found his inspiration when he “went to the beaches of Sian Ka’an, Mexico and was completely blown away by the amount of garbage that was littering a federally protected biosphere!”  He then, starting in 2010, began transforming what would be pollution in to inspirational sculptures. 

Duran is also founder of “The Digital Project”, an initiative to “improve education through the creative use of technology”. (http://www.thedigitalproject.com/)  This project added excitement and motivation to the learning process at several educational institutions.  They documented musician KRS ONE’s motivational speech at a talent show at East Side Community High School in New York City.  During his speech, KRS ONE told the youth “the more you validate, compliment and inspire your own friends, the more you create wealth and opportunity around you”. The project also collaborated on a program called “Think Globally, Act Locally” where Columbia University’s CEES went to the Secondary School for Journalism, New York City, for a unit which combined environmental knowledge with the teacher’s college reading and writing workshop.  These past works are so relevant because now Duran is demonstrating that the values taught to youth by his “Digital Project” can work for him in such an inspirational way with his “Washed Up” project. 

Duran is looking to sell some of his prints to make the project more sustainable and has a show coming up in June 2012 at Calumet Gallery, New York City as part of En Foco’s New Works Award.  The purchasing of this art is directly enabling the existence of projects like this one and the anti-plastic pollution movement, in general.

The disasters associated with plastic pollution are not limited to Mexico, they are occurring world-wide.  Upon entering the ocean, plastic pollution is utilizing a vehicle which will transport its ugly presence globally.  When iconic figures like Duran lend their talent to a worthy cause like eliminating plastic pollution, it helps others realize what is going on.  I encourage everyone to seek out and purchase art by Duran and support this project in any way possible.  Drawing attention to the problem is half the battle.  In this case Duran certainly demonstrates the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. 

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