.debris. Consuming plastic Mobilities

2015 .debris. update

Since autumn 2012, .debris. has grown into a collaborative project which is being created as a response to the problems presented by single use plastic. The work reflects the literal problem of plastic in marine environments while offering a symbolic representation of the chemical body burdens carried by wildlife and humans alike. In presenting these issues, we are asked to consider misplaced notions of “disposability”, calling in to question consumer driven waste which has devalued what is in fact a very important material.

Surface Arts London invited the Debris Project to engage communities in northern Thailand during a residency specifically designed for collaborative works at the Rumpueng Community Arts Center during the month of August. The work was shown at the Rumpueng gallery in October, 2015. From there, the installation moved to an exhibit in downtown Chiang Mai by Art Relief International, who continued to develop the project regionally through the remainder of the year. The project traveled to Letterkenny Arts Center in Ireland as part of the Hybrid exchange between Colorado and Irish artists. The following spring the work was presented at TransCultural Exchange’s conference, Expanding Worlds at the University of Boston. A regional collaboration with multiple organizations through the San Francisco Bay Area culminated in an exhibition at the Gallery Route One near the National Seashore. The project was integrated into the summer camp program at the Marine Mammal Center and as an ongoing aspect of the ecological activism promoted by Save Our Shores in Santa Cruz. The integration of the project into regional educational programming took place through the school year with the culmination exhibition taking place with a presentation by Lee Lee at the Monterrey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Education Center in April 2016.

Highlights since the project was installed at the Chateau de la Napoule include an installation for the Mobile Art Exhibition curated by Aslak Aamot Kjaerulff, which was installed at the Aalborg University for the Cosmobilities Network in Copenhagen, Denmark. The project as presented in a mobilities context will be published by Springer Press International and released in 2016. A presentation on the value of stepping away of educational models when building international collaborations was given to the Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences for Welcome to the Anthropocene at Pace University, New York. Ties between chemical body burdens and industrial agriculture were explored on a Slow Food platform during Terra Madre in Turin, Italy. In the Caribbean, we executed a collaborative performance, Message in a Bottle with Aragorn’s workshop on Trellis Bay in the British Virgin Islands. Representations were also gathered from the Timouns Rezistanz in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Marine debris collected from a beach clean with Sharkastics on Maui have provided hard plastics softened by the open ocean to integrate into youth workshops on the mainland. Explorations on effective community engagement around plastic pollution were shared with the Voluntary Artist Studio of Thimphu, Bhutan. In conjunction with the Biennial of the Americas, Processus included part of the work in an exhibition about the Life of Things. Also in Colorado, the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History hosted a family activity day themed, From the Mountains through the Prairies to the Oceans, that tracked waterways. Installations of student involvement in the project were mounted in Denver by the Denver Aquarium, PlatteForum and the Ricks Center for Gifted Children at the University of Denver. In New Mexico, the river organization, Amigos Bravos, hosted a .debris. presentation at the Santa Fe Community Foundation as part of their Water Matters series, and the Field Institute of Taos integrated it as part of their curriculum to explore human impacts on river ecologies. The project has been published in articles by the United Nations Environment Programme, Bay Nature Magazine, RISDxyz and as an interview on Santa Fe Radio Café.
Essentially this was developed as a flexible tool to engage people creatively around issues surrounding plastic pollution. The overall project gained strength through gathering a wide range of geographical representations of the ecological impacts of plastic. It is used as a hands on activity to incorporate into existing programs or curricula, as well as a platform to share effective ways of addressing the problems at hand. 

.debris. Marine Wildlife Mobilities Sacred Waters

turtles swimming with marine debris

watercolor of sea turtle by Lee Lee
sea turtle watercolor by Lee Lee
watercolor painting of sea turtles by Lee Lee
watercolor with torched .debris. collage | 2014
Lee Lee drawing of sea turtle on stone lithograph
stone lithograph of pressed plastic bag, pencil & tea stain | 2011
printed under James Koga, Honolulu Academy of Arts 2002
.debris. Consuming plastic Mobilities

Chateau de la Napoule

Do you see what I see?

Whale family by Lee Lee

A Fine Art Experience for Children & Everyone Else

This show is for you—to inspire you to see art in your own way.  To share what you see.  To ask the people around you what they see.  When we share our experience with others, we are connected. We form a community

Maybe something at this show will excite you. You will go home and keep thinking of it. That thought, can be called a spark and it means your creative fire has been lit.  Keep the fire alive and continue to think, talk and draw about what you have seen.  You will feel more a part of everything if you do.

My son, Thatcher Gray was four when I was invited to attend this residency geared towards creating work for children. I felt an urgency in communicating what I had learned about chemical and plastic pollution because of the challenge they present to the next generation. Works created during the residency are viewed here. We were asked to provide an interactive element for the exhibition, and the suggestion launched the project into becoming a platform for an international response to chemical and plastic pollution.

.debris. gallery installation at the Chateau de la Napoule
Residency installation view of .debris. at the Chateau de la Napoule: test run
Lee Lee paintings of debris
Lee Lee painting of harbor seal & debris
Lee Lee painting of Alewives
Lee Lee painting of Tuna
Lee Lee painting of beluga whales
Lee Lee debris installation
Lee Lee shark painting
Lee Lee plankton collages
Lee Lee plankton assemblage
Lee Lee plankton painting with marine debris
Lee Lee installation at the Chateau de la Napoule
.debris. Europe Ireland migrations Mobilities Rocky Mountain West

Hybrid at Redline

Curatorial Statement
Initiated by Rian Kerrane, a native of Ireland, Hybrid asks fourteen artists to “cross over”. The artists’ work examines the experience of crossing the Atlantic in the current political climate while acknowledging historic influences from each artist’s perspective; identifying experiences of (dis)placement and immersion in cultural and social surroundings from either side of the Atlantic. RedLine provides the first venue for a pair of exhibitions, the second of which will take place in Ireland, allowing each artist to engage both with “local” proximity and “foreign” distance in turn.

The wide range of included media and the diverse origins of the participants are intended to incite a stimulating translation and critical examination of ongoing cultural conversations and personal experiences of the hybridization of our lives, expectations, ancestral backgrounds, geology, perceptions, identities, of immigration, and of both the geographic distance and human commonality of the artists.

Shaped by Kerrane’s personal ties with the included artists, Hybrid emerges from a reflective process of curatorial matchmaking. Working in sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, film and installation, the works of these two groups of artists both mirror and confront one another. Hybrid acknowledges and pays tribute to complex local experiences in a common global culture, reflecting Kerrane’s eighteen years of continually (re)crossing the Atlantic.

Artist’s Statement
The Irish arrived in the west as hard rock miners, and planted the seeds of industrialization that changed the face of our landscape and established the foundation of culture in our mountain towns. Even today, the old saloons carry an Irish flavor. This series looks at the long term, chemical impacts of a set of mines perched around the town of Leadville, at the headwaters of the Arkansas river. I was awarded a Terraphilia residency through the Colorado Art Ranch, where I had the opportunity to get to know the ecologist, Susan Tweit. She offered great insight into the nature of the river, and the transformation of the ecology after the grouping of mines upstream became a federal ‘Superfund’ site, wherein the pollution from the mines was mitigated. The mines had no outflow, so when the snow melts, all the passages fill up with water, which then overflows into the Arkansas River, killing all the insects and larvae in a flood of red-colored heavy metals from the mines. The drawings here were paired with a series of waterflies native to the region & drawn with red-tinged ink in a way that make them look like they were exploding.

drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
Lee Lee | Mines from Leadville, Colorado
Teastains, pencil, ink, gouache, charcoal & watercolor on Strathmore paper
11″ x 11″ | 2012 | Created on a Terraphilia residency hosted by the ecologist Susan Tweit in Salida, CO