Friday, December 18, 2009

post review

Oh! here is the video I showed at my review. Please excuse the dark graininess:

Did: I gave my review!

Accomplished/Discovered: I feel really good about my review. I think gathering everything along with all of my thoughts into one presentation was really helpful for me. I also feel really positive about my feedback. I came away from the discussion with two main points in mind:
1. The panel was interested in the fact that I am walking a line between having an "activist-minded" project and doing "something else". A boundary between science in art and a boundary between a campaign and a work of "fine art" (perhaps?). I was encouraged to keep exploring this boundary even if I don't have answers.
2. There is a real need for CONTEXT in the project. i.e. if I want the audience to be aware of the plastic pollution problem they need to know more factual information about the problem. They might need to know how many milk jugs were used, where they came from, over what period of time...etc. This would emphasize that my art itself is made from recycled materials. I should also think about what I am going to do with the work once IP is finished. But I will need to be careful about how I integrate this information.
Obviously, this is my personal take on my feedback so I will be interested to see what kind of comments came out of the review.

Do: ENJOY break. (& maybe do some occasional milk jug cutting and thesis writing... maybe)

Friday, December 11, 2009

scuuuba in the pool

Did: arranged tank rental (1 hr)
signed pool contract (1 hr)
milk jug work (2 hrs)
picking up equipment/transporting to pool (2 hrs)
time in pool, setting up & photographing (3 hrs)
editing photos/video/working on presentation (3-4 hrs)
returning tank/cleaning equipment (1 hr)

Accomplished/Discovered: I feel like I did a ridiculous amount of leg work to get into the pool this week. There were so many things that could have gone wrong and almost/sort of did. I am hoping that now that I have figured all of this out, the process should be much easier. I arranged for a tank rental last Friday, picked it up this Wednesday, went to the pool on Wednesday night, and returned the tank yesterday afternoon, whew! Then I had to sign a contract for the pool rental... that was a process... Once I had moved everything to the pool I started setting up my equipment. Unfortunately I had a slight equipment malfunction over which I had a short anxiety attack, but I was still able to dive in the pool. Yesterday afternoon I dropped off all of my scuba equipment to be checked out.

The actual pool experience, however, was phenomenal. In a serendipitous turn of events, a classmate of mine (Jake) from my "Creating Art Outdoors" class, has been working on a large plastic piece with the intention of using it in a lake or river. Ideally it would partially fill with water, and the edges, which are inflatable, would help keep the water in. I told Jake about my project and he decided to bring everything on Wednesday as well. Since the piece is actually pretty big, it became a great background for my work.

We were able to play around with a lot of variables. He had rented lighting equipment from the Duderstadt and that created an amazing glow in the pool. We were able to shut all the lights off in the pool as well.

The entire experience was incredibly surreal. Jake's piece looked like a giant inverted jellyfish.

When he began swimming in it it actually looked as if he was encased in an enormous egg-like structure. His silhouette went in and out. Sometimes I would see just his hands pressing on the interior of the structure and the rest of his figure would be lost in a hazy shadow.Here are more images from the evening:
Do: Now I need to focus on getting ready for my December review on Tuesday... That will include editing more photographs by that time. Over break I also need to start thinking about what will really be important for me to photograph at my next pool date (Jan. 13th). Then I can actively start to build it :D

I am also super excited just to have some down time over break... I can't wait :)

Friday, December 4, 2009


Did: Hours & hours of plastic collecting, cutting, stringing and experimenting. Prep for Dec. 9th pool photo shoot. (6+ easily)
Contacting Rec Sports supervisor about pool date (1/2 hr)

Discovered/Accomplished: Potentially one of the most important things I discovered this week was that I cannot continue to hot glue plastic milk jug pieces in my studio. I have to start doing this in a ventilated area... I guess I didn't realize that gluing the pieces was releasing fumes until I stood up... haha... its sort of funny... kinda.

This week I feel like I became really inspired to create new forms with the plastic. Part of that is a result of coming across some new images of underwater life. I am working on creating a sphere of plastic using much smaller milk jug pieces, glued together around a form (pink plastic kiddie rubber ball). I am hoping that I will be able to put an underwater flashlight inside the sphere to make it glow from the inside. I also made new forms with the milk jug handles where I attached plastic bag pieces to one end. This form will be able to inflate... inflatables are something that I am starting to think more about. One of the problems I am encountering is the time consuming nature of mass producing the kind of forms I need. Inflatable forms would allow me to take up much more space in an underwater environment without as much labor intensive work cutting and gluing...

Do: I need to begin working on my practice presentation for Thursday. My first photo shoot with scuba equipment and a pool to myself is this upcoming Wednesday!!! I am really excited, but I know that I have a lot of preparations to make. I need to finish the spherical form so that I can experiment with it on the 9th.

*I will post photos soon!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wayne Levin

"Floating Ziplock Bag"

"Fish Net Pyramid"

this is ridiculously cool and I want one.

The link above takes you to a blog post about "earthship" houses made out of recycled materials... tires, bottles, cans, etc. The houses are amazing :)

I think this image is also relevant to my project:

It reminds me of the aesthetic I have been using and the color of the light is beautiful.

Did: This week I don't think I have completed 6 full hours of work due to Thanksgiving... YUM. I participated in critique with the group from John & Elona's section and I also probably spent about 3 hours cutting and stringing plastic pieces.

Discovered: I have been planning on photographing the plastic bottles (from Sadashi) and the strands of plastic pieces in the pool on December 9th... I think I am going to need an insane amount of strands completed if I want it to look like any kind of environment at all...

Do: I need to start actively collecting materials... more plastic bottles, in more colors than just white or clear. I think I need to start raiding the container recycling bins in the school. I also think I am going to try and purchase the clear "bag-like" housing to test out using my Nikon underwater.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Did: Collecting, cutting and stringing plastic pieces (4 hrs)
Gathered bottles from Sadashi (1/2 hr)
Attended scuba club meeting (1.5 hrs)
Research - read Dive magazine (1 hr)
Meeting with Rec Sports to reserve pool (1.5 hrs)

Discovered: After talking with Stephanie, I decided that I needed to designate some space in my studio to hang up my current work from this project. That way I can evaluate it and really study it on the wall... I started to hang up a bunch of strands of plastic milk jug pieces. I am going to need a LOT more strands in order for me to fill up a part of the pool... I need to get into MAKING mode :)

My meetings this week were very productive... I had intended to do some more photography experiments in the pool on Wednesday, but then the Michigan Scuba Club had a meeting... Another student was speaking about his own underwater photography (he had a beautiful ikelite housing, suuuuper jealous). I'm hoping to talk with him further about my project and the equipment required. I think meeting other divers at Michigan could be very beneficial for me if I need others to help out with installations in the future.

I also met with my Rec Sports boss to talk about pool reservation times. We are setting up dates for me to use the pool from now until April. It looks like my first date will be December 9th. By that point I will need to have an installation ready to set up and shoot underwater... Just in time to edit some photos and show them at my December review.

List of potential dates:
Wednesday, December 9, 6:30pm-10:30pm - IMSB
Wednesday, January 13, 6:30pm-10:30pm - IMSB
Thursday, February 4, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB
Friday, February 5, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB
Thursday, February 18, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB
Friday, February 19, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB
Thursday, March 11, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB
Friday, March 12, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB
Thursday, March 25, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB
Friday, March 26, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB

I also found an article
called "Life in the Hidden Depths" in Dive Magazine that was relevant to my project. The author wrote, "In the final days of the expedition, we made a distressing discovery. One late afternoon while viewing hypnotic scenes from the ROV of a vast desert-like wilderness, we saw a landscape of trash scattered across the seafloor more than 2,000m down off the Philippine island of Simunul. The ROV's powerful lights lit up drink cans, foam cartons, plastic bags, biscuit wrappers, soap packages, and food tins. This inner space environment, where no human can survive nor has been before, bears the destructive evidence of our species."

Do: I need to keep stringing plastic pieces in order to complete a large-scale installation by December 9th. I am also going to start working on how to address the sides and bottom of the pool... I think I am going to buy fabric sheets to create a backdrop of some kind.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

grant writing week.

Did: collected and cut plastic (1.5 hrs)
networking, researching & setting up meetings (3 hrs)
prep for grant writing and drafting grant proposal (3 hrs)

printed photos & dropped off two images from my recent work at the Chelsea Center for the Arts for the show Hydrology (2 hrs)

Discovered/Accomplished: This week I spent much more time networking, talking to others, researching & grant writing instead of actually creating sculptures or images. I think all the things I did were useful so I don't feel by any means like it was an unproductive week. My Rec Sports boss has been helping me figure out how to reserve a pool. It looks like it is definitely possible and I am currently talking with her about the details. I am also meeting with a professor today who does research on corals for pharmaceutical properties. I would like to find out through him which other departments do work directly related to the ocean and whether there are any departments which currently utilize underwater photography equipment.

A few weeks ago I entered two of the images I have made into a call for art at the Chelsea Center for the Arts. The show is titled "Hydrology" so I thought my work would fit pretty well. This week I printed the images, framed them, and dropped them off. Although I don't think I want my final showing of images to be framed pieces, I think it will be interesting to see how they look in a gallery.
I have also found a few artists who are making very surreal work underwater... I don't know which I like more: Elena Kalis' images, or the fact that she has lived for the past ten years on a small island in the Bahamas with her husband and two children.

Kate also sent me a link to images of Philippe Ramette's work. Here are two of my favorites:I also felt that the group critiques this week were extremely beneficial. Two interesting concepts were brought to my attention...

Erica said that my images have a sense of tragedy, which I think is a great compliment. I like the idea that my work can be somewhat abstract, surreal, slightly unsettling, and tragic.

There was also a lot of discussion about the use of figures in the work, which I had been wanting feedback about. Some liked seeing humans and some didn't. The idea of incorporating text is an important part of this discussion because I think there are 2 different routes that I could follow with this work:

* The first would be creating a series of abstracted images without people (similar to the images of the plastic milk jug pieces). These images would be beautiful, but they would not be disturbing in any way... They might be strange, but not unsettling. The twist would be incorporating text. Throwing in facts about the plastic pollution, or descriptions about how it is affecting the environment, would change the context completely. John Marshall gave the example of Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ":
Without knowing the title, the image is actually beautiful... it glows. But once you read the text, you know that the crucifix is sitting in a container of the artist's urine, and your feelings towards the image completely changes.

*The second route I could take would be to incorporate humans and use them to create a series of images which gradually gets more unsettling over time. Not all of the images would have to include people. In this line of thinking about the project, text might take a backseat to the images... The images would drive the viewer's feelings about the work & the text would be supplemental rather than being the key element that changes the viewer's perception about the work.

Do: I need to get back into the process of making this week. I like going into the pool on Wednesday nights do do "mini experiments" for my larger installations. This week I wasn't able to do so because I was busy working on my grant writing and I didn't have time to make anything new to play with. I am also going to follow up with my plans to reserve the pool. Hopefully I can come up with a few solid dates where I know that I get the pool all to myself :D

Monday, November 9, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009


Did: -collected & cut up plastic pieces (2-3hrs)
-contacted Rec Sports directors & looked up how much it costs to rent scuba tanks (1/2 hr)
-searched for more underwater photographers and potential grant opportunites (1.5 hrs)
-scanned important pages of Good Magazine's the Water Issue (1/2 hr)
-organized research into two main categories and listed quotes/research under those categories (1.5 hrs)
-photographed at the pool again (2 hrs)
-edited photos (1 hr)
-fell asleep in my studio (1 hr)

Discovered/accomplished: I think organizing my research was a really good step for me this week (look at the last 2 blog posts). It helped me rearrange all of my crazy thoughts surrounding what I am actually doing. I like the idea of viewing the plastic particles as "organisms". It actually makes sense the more you read about plastic in the environment... plus there has been more than one occasion where people have commented saying that the sculptures I am making look alive, they move like they are alive, some of them look like kelp/seaweed, they remind people of microscopic cells or bacteria...etc. I think the photographs this week were also really interesting. I am not sure yet whether people should be a part of my photographs, but I think the images I made this week are interesting. I would be interested to hear how people respond to them...

Do: After talking with Hannah, she suggested I try and contact professors/administrators here at U of M who may be working in areas relating to oceanography. They may have more information to give me about the problem, but they also may have underwater photography equipment that I could tap into... that would be amazing... I also need to see if I hear back about the possibility of reserving a pool to use for a larger scale installation. I want to keep adding to my list of quotes (2 posts ago) so that I have a wider variety of sources. I need to keep making. If I want to relate the scale of this problem I need a LOT of plastic.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

just keep swimming...

"large pieces of plastic can kill by entrapment, suffocation and drowning" - Algalita Marine Research Foundation

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

image inspiring words, words, words.

This is an attempt at organizing my research into the most critical elements and inspiring descriptions.

I need to relate the SHEER MASS (i.e. the amount of shit in our oceans):
Facts: 500 billion to a trillion plastic bags are used worldwide per year (National Geographic News).

"The detritus of human life is collecting in a swirling current so large that it defies precise measurement." - Lindsey Hoshaw (NY Times, 11.9.09)

"The scale of the phenomenon is astounding" - Charles Moore, founder of Algalita

"Sprawling mass" - Michelle Rindels AP Writer (

I need to explore the possible BEHAVIOR of this introduced, synthetic element into the ecosystem ( i.e.
it is eaten. it attracts chemicals in the water. it photodegrades/leaches into the water. it has a long life: 1,000 years to biodegrade. in what ways is it becoming its own organism within the environment? is it essentially an invasive species? what does it look like? how does it move?):

"Ironically, the debris is re-entering the oceans whence it came; the ancient plankton that once floated on Earth's primordial sea gave rise to the petroleum now being transformed into plastic polymers. That exhumed life, our
"civilized plankton," is, in effect, competing with its natural counterparts, as well as with those life forms that directly or indirectly feed on them" - Charles Moore, founder of Algalita.

"tangled in the green net of some nameless fisherman" - Michelle Rindels AP Writer

"plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments." - Charles Moore

"We were looking at a rich broth of minute sea creatures mixed with hundreds of colored plastic fragments." - Charles Moore

"transparent... organisms with colored plastic fragments in their bellies" - Charles Moore.

"most of the plastic looks like snowy confetti against the deep blue" - Michelle Rindels.

"the fragments look like confetti in the water" - Lindsey Hoshaw

"large pieces of plastic can kill by entrapment, suffocation and drowning" - Algalita Marine Research Foundation

"some floats, some swirls below the surface at various depths, and some has already sunk to the sea floor" - Algalita Marine Research Foundation

Sunday, November 1, 2009

revised timeline

I'm not sure if I needed to post this revised timeline or not, but here goes.

10.28: I want to take anything that I have made so far from the plastic milk jugs and/or the plastic bags and take them to the pool to photograph. Wednesday nights may be a good time to photograph at the NCRB. If that is true, I may use Wednesday nights as photography nights.

11.03-5: Consolidate research to the point where I have at least a tentative understanding of what I will be illustrating through my photographs… i.e. I would like a specific list of phrases that I am the most interested in using for inspiration. I also need to be continually making and adding to my plastic installations.

11.12: Grant proposals due.

11.17-19: Continue to MAKE things!! Complete an underwater photo shoot after making adjustments from what I learn during the Wednesday pool experiments. This photo shoot will involve more planning, including contacting pool directors and using Scuba equipment.

11.24-12.03: Begin thinking about and working on presentation.

12.15-16 December Review: Ultimately I would like to have one or two “completed” installations by December review. I want to have images from a larger scale underwater installation using my plastic sculptures. My research should be incorporated into the presentation and I need to clearly define which information is the most influential to the work I am making.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Did: -collected and cut plastic (4-5 hrs)
-underwater photo shoot at the pool (3 hrs)
-editing photos (1 hr)
-thinking/networking about the future after John's talk (1 hr)
-looking at other artist's work (Beili Liu, Andres Amador, Tara Donovan) (1/2 hr)

Discovered: I want to thank Meg, Stephanie, and Erica for recommending artists for me to look at. I was definitely inspired by their work. I absolutely LOVED the aesthetic of this piece by Tara Donovan (Untitled, 2003, ACE Gallery New York):
It is made completely of styrofoam cups and hot glue. It mimics cells and natural structures, but it is also creating a type of synthetic landscape which I am becoming extremely interested in. I haven't found an artist statement yet, but I am wondering how much environmentalism plays into her work. I'm not sure that is a huge goal of hers because in her work I don't get the sense that she is using discarded materials. It seems really stupid to me that she would buy a bazillion styrofoam cups to make this... but it is something I need to look into before I make any statements about the work she is making. Regardless of that, I absolutely love the environment she creates with this incredibly mundane object.

I also photographed underwater for the first time this semester!! Yay! It has taken me way too long to get to that point...

I am really happy with the results of my first underwater experiments with the plastic milk jug pieces (photographs in last post). I feel like there is a lot of potential to expand this project and really create an environment for me to photograph in the pool. A lot of what I accomplished in getting into the pool was getting reacquainted with my equipment. I needed to organize all of the camera gadgets I had making sure I had enough batteries, making sure I remembered how to hook up the strobes (underwater flash system) to the camera...etc. This was obviously not my favorite part of the experience, but it is really beneficial.

Once I was in the pool it was interesting to watch how my plastic experiments behaved. I tied the strings of plastic to bolts, which sank to the bottom and allowed the rest of the line to float to the top. It almost looked like seaweed/kelp. Other free-floating pieces began to move in very interesting ways. They almost come alive in the water...

I want to make more. I want to fill a pool or at least a part of a pool with these structures. For my final exhibition I could recreate the environment indoors so people could view it for a longer amount of time, but I really want to see this underwater and photograph it underwater. I am now starting to envision the final result of this project to be an installation with the plastic pieces in a physical space, but alongside the sculptures would be my images. I am also thinking about how projection could be used to show the images instead of photographs in static frames...

I had been thinking about this idea before seeing Beili Liu's work, but her piece Tie. Untie, 2008 has really inspired me to explore this idea more. She projected a video loop onto a pile of string on the floor. I think projecting onto a material other than a screen could work well with my ideas:
Do: I need to get serious about finding out if I can reserve a pool. I need to talk to contacts I have at Rec Sports. I also need to find out how much it costs to rent tanks, weights, and underwater lights from dive shops in Ann Arbor. I will need to be continuously making, otherwise i will not have enough to photograph... I am also going to compile a list of figures/statistics/quotes from my research which are the most important for me to discuss with this project.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

another friday :) 10.23.09

Did: I have probably spent at least 7 hours this week collecting plastic milk jugs, washing them out, cutting them up, and either hot glueing or sewing them together. Here is the result (excuse the bad photos, I will post better ones soon):

These pieces were strung together and are hanging in my studio right now:

I still feel pretty disorganized at this point due to the fact that this weekend I completely moved everything out of my parents old house (fun fall break, hah). But despite the chaos, I think I was fairly productive with the plastic shapes.

Discovered: Most of what I discovered this week really had to do with the material of plastic itself. I really like working with the plastic milk jugs. I think there is a LOT of potential for experimentation with this material and the best part is that it is free. I have been taking milk jug donations and I have also been going over to Beansters almost every day... they may think I'm crazy, but right now I'm happy because I don't really have to pay for materials :) Beansters has also been a great source for the plastic because the milk jugs aren't sitting around for very long so they don't smell like ones that have been sitting in recycle bins (NASTY).

I also love how the shapes I am making mimic so many natural forms. Cells, certain types of fungi, & coral all have the same circular or ovular shapes.

Do: Here is my tentative schedule until December review.

10.28: I want to take anything I have made so far from the plastic milk jugs and/or the plastic bags and take them to the pool to photograph... I found out Weds. night is a good night for experimenting with this.

11.17-19: Continue to MAKE things!! Complete an underwater photo shoot after making adjustments from what I learn during the 10.28 pool experiments.

12.15-16: For the review I want to have images from a larger scale underwater installation using my plastic sculptures. I want to incorporate my research into the presentation and more clearly define which information is the most influential to the work I am making.

I realize this is a really rough schedule... but I think it is hard for me to come up with a day-by-day plan... especially as I encounter problems or challenges. (i.e. cutting the plastic pieces is extremely time consuming) As I work, I will discover things that will influence the direction I take. Ultimately I would like to have a completed underwater installation to show at the review.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

go see this!

Last night to see The Cove at the Michigan Theater is tomorrow night... Go see it!

Monday, October 19, 2009

shapes in the sand

I love love love these & wanted to share:

Jim Denevan creates these drawings in the sand at low tide. I love when simple and/or organic shapes make such bold & powerful images. Check out his site:

Friday, October 16, 2009

10.16.09 post

Did: -playing on beach, experimenting (3 hrs)
-edited photos (1/2 hr)
-research, found more artists (Ha Schult, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Judith Selby Lang and Richard Lang, Claudia Borgna), found Antennae (a great online magazine), contacted scuba club (2 hrs)
-organized plastic research into a word document w/ links to articles (1 hr)
-continued editing project proposal (1 hr)

-collected milk cartons from Beanster's and began cutting them up into pieces for installation (2 hrs).

Discovered: I found more helpful articles about plastic pollution at I watched a video that Erica recommended on trash "Buy Your Garbage Back?".
I found a few artists working with garbage.
Ha Schult creates life size "trash people" and then installs them at different locations all over the world. Tim Noble & Sue Webster use piles of trash to create silhouettes.

Judith Selby Lang and Richard Lang, collect trash on Kehoe Beach and use it to create art... here is a collection of plastic cheese spreaders that they have found over a 10 year period

I discovered Antennae magazine which featured an article about artist Claudia Borgna.

Claudia Borgna's work has an extremely similar aesthetic to the installations I have had in mind:

Borgna writes, "In the past years I have been looking at how rubbish and man made objects are very much transforming and creating new landscapes and becoming more and more integrated into nature... the plastic bags are a human creation and therefore natural appendix of man. One could argue that whatever is man made is natural and that ultimately nature is an unstable and unreliable human construction ruled by social and cultural needs."

As I researched plastics I found lots of interesting or poetic descriptions of the plastic problem:

"In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments."

"We were looking at a rich broth of minute sea creatures mixed with hundreds of colored plastic fragments-a plastic-plankton soup."

"Our photographers captured underwater images of jellyfish hopelessly entangled in frayed lines, and transparent filter feeding organisms with colored plastic fragments in their bellies."

"In the Great Pacific Garbage Patch most of the plastic looks like snowy confetti against the deep blue of the north Pacific Ocean."

These phrases that I keep coming across have influenced my ideas about the direction my project could take. I like the idea of illustrating these phrases and statistics from scientific research and reports. My installations would reflect different sentences or descriptions that I isolate from my research. In that way they could become a narrative about the process of plastic. Text may become an important component... Ultimately I could re-envision scientific research and show people what is really happening outside of the context of dry scientific reports and data.

Do: After organizing my research I would like to make a list of the quotes/phrases that I think would be interesting to illustrate. I also want to get a lot of work done on the installation I have in mind using pieces of milk cartons. I think this installation would explain the process of the break-down of plastic particles once the enter the water. I WANT TO MAKE THINGS AND PHOTOGRAPH THEM UNDERWATER. yay!

Monday, October 12, 2009

lake michigan experiments

I went to the beach in Grand Haven this weekend to play.

I want to create an installation HERE:

here are some of my experiments...
dark sand on light sand:

an attempt at a whitefish silhouette:

plastic bag boulders: