From flot­sam and jet­sam of life, sculp­ture is born

China Daily (Canada) - - PEOPLE - By YAN DONGJIE

yan­dongjie@chi­nadaily.com.cn

For 30 years Cindy Pease Roe has lived in sea­side lo­cal­i­ties in North Amer­ica and Europe and sailed their wa­ters, a wit­ness to how the oceans are chang­ing.

“It is this prox­im­ity to the sea that has in­flu­enced my art,” Roe said. But in ad­di­tion to squawk­ing sea birds, waves lap­ping against wharves and gen­tle sea breezes that you may hear, see and feel in her paint­ings, Roe brings at least one other el­e­ment to her art: rub­bish.

Roe, 57, lives on Long Is­land Sound, New York state, where, she said, she al­ways finds brightly col­ored pieces of plas­tic ly­ing with the flot­sam and jet­sam that washes up onto the beach.

With this waste she has de­vel­oped a very spe­cial art — us­ing all the plas­tics and other waste as ma­te­ri­als to make sculp­tures, the over­rid­ing theme be­ing the oceans, the dan­gers hu­mankind poses to them and what we might do about it.

From a cou­ple of feet away one of her works takes the form of a beau­ti­ful an­i­mal, but if you look a lot more closely you will spot the beach toys, bot­tles, combs, lighters, shot­gun shells, straw and tooth­brushes that went into creat­ing it.

Marine de­bris is one of the big­gest prob­lems fac­ing the world’s oceans and water­ways today, Roe said, most of the de­bris washed up on beaches be­ing plas­tic.

“My work con­sumes a small amount of waste from the ocean, but the mes­sage I make with my sculp­ture is sig­nif­i­cant,” said Roe, who has been in China with her works re­cently pro­mot­ing that mes­sage, with the help of the United States em­bassy in Bei­jing.

In ad­di­tion to draw­ing at­ten­tion to marine pol­lu­tion, she is en­gaged in what she calls “creat­ing some­thing of value from some­thing that has none”.

The process of creat­ing sculp­tures from waste is rel­a­tively easy, she said. She finds what­ever she can on the beach, cleans it and then glues pieces to­gether to get her sculp­ture.

Clean­ing and sort­ing marine de­bris can be messy, but it is one of the most im­por­tant as­pects of her work, be­cause her ideas on what form the work will take are shaped as she closely en­gages with the waste, she said.

When she be­gan creat­ing these works, she tried mak­ing wreaths con­tain­ing mes­sages such as a peace sign made of rope and plas­tic. Af­ter she placed this on the front door of her stu­dio, it got peo­ple talk­ing, she said.

“What is that made from?” and ‘”Where did you find the ma­te­ri­als?” she was asked. The en­su­ing dis­cus­sions in­spired her to make more.

Whales are the most com­mon theme and her fa­vorite, she said.

“Whales rep­re­sent a big idea and a big change. They are the largest an­i­mals in the ocean, and we don’t re­ally un­der­stand them.”

They are an an­cient symbol of cre­ation and have been “global cit­i­zens” since time be­gan, she said.

The whales Roe makes have be­come highly pop­u­lar, and given that the ma­te­ri­als that go into them cost her noth­ing, they can be highly prof­itable for her, sell­ing for thou­sands of dol­lars each.

“Peo­ple have be­gun to help by send­ing me rope they pick up from beaches,” Roe en­thused, ap­par­ently de­lighted that her works are hav­ing a good in­flu­ence on peo­ple.

Talk­ing about whales, Roe is the most vo­cif­er­ous on the North At­lantic right.

They were so named be­cause whalers in that ocean re­garded them as a wise choice for hunt­ing given that they floated af­ter be­ing killed, Roe said, adding that there are only about 300 left today.

Roe hopes that apart from draw­ing at­ten­tion to the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing the oceans and seas, she is help­ing pro­mote the pro­tec­tion of an­i­mals gen­er­ally.

Her par­tic­u­lar care for the oceans and the life in them goes back to her child­hood.

Dur­ing her youth she spent sum­mers with her grand­par­ents in Cape Cod, Mas­sachusetts.

“It was there that I ac­quired a great re­spect for the sea and its myr­iad ways of in­form­ing and in­spir­ing.”

Of the many other sea­side towns where she has lived or spent time over the past 30 years, one of those whose mem­o­ries she cher­ishes most is Sausal­ito, Cal­i­for­nia, near the north­ern end of the Golden Gate Bridge and known for its boat yards and fish­ing in­dus­try.

“I saw those boat yards slip away day by day, and I wanted to cap­ture them while I could be­fore they dis­ap­peared.”

When peo­ple see her sculp­tures, their first re­ac­tion is “Oh this is fun”, she said, and then on closer in­spec­tion they re­al­ize how they tell a story about the lives of oceans and the in­flu­ence of waste on them.

“The very thing that makes plas­tic so ver­sa­tile and durable is what makes it a big part of our marine de­bris prob­lem — it’s al­most in­de­struc­tible.”

The most com­monly used plas­tics do not sim­ply dis­ap­pear. In­stead, they break down into smaller pieces that can be­come food for marine life, and which may end up in our stom­achs.

“Lit­ter can come from a city hun­dreds of miles away from the ocean. It moves through storm drains into rivers and other bod­ies of wa­ter, and even­tu­ally makes its way into the ocean.”

It needs to be re­mem­bered that we need ev­ery­thing from the oceans, but they do not need us, she said.

YAN DONGJIE / CHINA DAILY

Cindy Pease Roe

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