Priscilla the parrotfish brings the problem of ocean plastic to the desert
View larger Priscilla the Parrotfish is on display at the Tucson Botanical Gardens on Thursday, January 28, 2024. It is one of seven ocean plastic sculptures brought to Tucson by the nonprofit Washed Ashore Hannah Cree
The Tucson Botanical Garden’s newest visitor is a huge rainbow parrotfish named Priscilla.
Priscilla joins a rockoper penguin, a tufted puffin, dozens of jellyfish, a whale tail, a mako shark, and more. But surprisingly, these creatures do not need water.
“Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea” is a non-profit organization that turns plastic debris from the ocean into meaningful sculptures meant to draw attention to the thing they are made of.
Brad Parks, director of conservation education, said his organization’s efforts are “a beautiful solution to an ugly problem.”
View larger Sebastian James is a tufted puffin statue sculpted entirely from plastic that washed up on the Oregon coast. Hannah Cree
Volunteers collected, cleaned and transformed more than 60,000 pounds of plastic from the Oregon coast into nearly 100 sculptures.
Much plastic reaches the beach in pieces, as plastic debris can spend years slowly decomposing in the sea. But other waste remains intact, and Washed Ashore artists intentionally place those recognizable items at eye level.
Priscilla’s scales are a mosaic of bottle caps, shovels, beach toys, and foam slippers. In other cases, lighters, spoons and golf balls form the surface.
“It makes you painfully aware of how that plastic was used once. It’s now in the ocean,” said Katie Rogerson, an employee at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.
View larger A close-up view of the plastics on Priscilla’s parrotfish. Tucson Botanical Gardens
Some ocean plastic comes from industrial activities, such as Priscilla’s fishing nets that mimic ocean waves. But the organization points out that more than 80% of ocean plastic leaks into the sea from land, which means that the plastic problem does not only affect the coasts.
“We want them to have a sense of awareness of how much plastic we use in our homes or at work. Then we hope to have an idea of how to change that behavior,” Rogerson said.
Recent reports indicate that there are up to 170 trillion pieces of plastic in the oceans today. This unprecedented amount of waste has drastic effects on ocean animals who mistake pieces of plastic for food.
Parks says art is a necessary way to confront a huge problem.
“With an emotional experience, you can feel inspired or horrified, or again, whatever emotion works, but it actually triggers a response that makes you think, think and then change that behavior,” Parks said. “So art is really a great place for that genre.” from work”.
Washed up artists can cut larger pieces to form the feathers or beak of a creature, but they do not paint any of the material from its original state.
Some colors can be a challenge, like their latest project, an osprey, Parks said.
“This eagle has a lot of brown on it. This is a rare color. It will take some time to make sure we have enough, and then we will cover it creatively with black,” he said.
(Tags for translation)Southern Arizona News