Growing up, local artist and naturopathic doctor Mary Bess Gloria remembers perceiving the action of littering as a problem, particularly because it was her father’s pet-peeve.
As an adult, though, littering and the proliferation of plastic debris in the environment have assumed additional significance while also appealing to her artistic sensibilities, she said while leading a workshop for the Cannon Beach Arts Association and Haystack Rock Awareness Program titled “How Does Your Garden Grow: Beach Plastic Floral Assemblage” on March 23.
While walking the beach with her dogs, she began noticing the bits of plastic marine debris strewn about and “they just started calling out to me.”
First and foremost, Gloria began considering how she personally could be “less of a consumer of those particular things” that are carelessly or incidentally discarded, dangerously making their way into the environment. Even though no West Coast states have water quality standards that directly address micro-plastics, a common belief among activists, scientists and other concerned parties is humans should try to stop plastic from getting into waterways in the first place.
Secondly, Gloria identified a way to incorporate the trash into her creative process, using the colorful pieces as an artistic medium, similar to sea glass but much more abundant. Whether the impulse is instinctual or learned, she finds herself frequently gathering debris.
“Pretty much any beach I go to, I’ll pick up something,” she said.
During the workshop, she shared her process with attendees, demonstrating how plastic pieces pasted on canvas can portray planters from which painted or paper flowers blossom or a myriad of other elements within mixed-media artwork. She encouraged participants to use their imaginations, conceptualizing and using the plastic debris and additional items however they wanted, which led to mixed-media depictions of a mermaid and a beach landscape, along with other more abstract images.
One of the most important takeaways, Gloria told participants, quoting renowned American sculptor Duane Hanson, is “Art doesn’t have to be pretty; it has to be meaningful.”
The Trash Talk Workshops, made possible with funding from the Oregon Coast Visitors Association, emphasize education. They serve as a venue for showing interested citizens how to use recycled beach debris and found ocean items in their art, in addition to helping them learn how they can partake in protecting the natural environment surrounding Cannon Beach’s iconic Haystack Rock.
The arts association has several Saturday workshops remaining in the series, including:
• Hand Woven Beach Baskets, with Susan Spence, on April 20
• The Ripple Effect: Plastic Marine Debris Mandalas, with Shelby Silver, on May 4
• Natural Science Illustration: Puffin Portraits, with Dorota Haber-Lehigh, on May 18
For more information or to register, visit cannonbeacharts.org or call 971-361-9308.