Artist Statement and Process
The Sixth Great Extinction in scientific and historical terms is known as the Holocene or Anthropocene extinction. By definition, it is the ongoing extinction event during the present epoch, mainly due to human activity. In other words, this mass extinction is happening right now on our planet. It is estimated that the current rate of extinction of species is 100 to 1,000 times higher than natural rates.
The extinct animal sculptures central to the exhibition were created using microplastic pollution that Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii removed from beaches across the Hawaiian islands. Each sculpture specifically represents an animal that has gone extinct in the last decade due to human activity. The animal forms were created by stuffing the gathered microplastics into discarded nylon stockings. These “stuffed animals” then become a literal imagining of how plastics are overtaking both the habitat and the food sources of marine life. The NOAA picture of an albatross carcass (below) who’s rotting interior reveals a creature that has become more plastic than organic body parts, haunts this work.
After building the animals, I took them out into the natural world, and photographed the unnerving juxtaposition of nature and plastic. I chose to use Polaroid film because each photograph is a one-off piece and cannot be reproduced. This exposes the finite aspect of life, the permanence of extinction, and the disposable mindset of a culture that creates so much indestructible waste.
Finally, to complete the visual expression of this concept, I created a series of mixed media 2D artworks incorporating charcoal, ink, pencil, printmaking and found photography, as well as a limited palette to emphasize the bleakness of extinction. Additionally, the encaustic works incorporate beeswax and pure color pigment.
This body of work responds to the ongoing extinction that we all bear witness to. Animals and plants are vastly disappearing, replaced with millions of tons of plastic, barren bodies of water stewing in waste runoff, and lands intricately woven with chemicals. The grotesque appearance of this art is a direct reflection of this grotesque (and growing) imbalance on our planet. This work is meant to instigate conversation and build awareness, so that through awareness and action can we heal existing damage and halt further environmental devastation.