Madison M. '20
How can art help bring awareness to the dangers of single use plastics in aquatic ecosystems?
Representing the Threat of Single Use Waste
In my Senior Capstone project, I sought to bring awareness to pollution in New York waterways, specifically Jamaica Bay where the Poly Prep crew team rows, using contemporary art. One large problem our world faces right now is the incorrect disposal of single use items that contaminate environments and have harmful effects on biological elements within. Although many people are made aware of the effects that littering has, they don’t see the effects it has on a smaller level. Microplastics are growing in number and are detrimental to the environments they enter. The materials I used hold the significance of the project itself. Although I wasn’t able to do a cleanup at Jamaica Bay as I initially planned to do, I was still able to use discarded single use plastic from the Staten Island South Shore beach in my final project. Even though the location was different, the message still stood. We throw so many pollutants into our environment on a daily basis that I was able to collect materials for a 10 foot long boat in a single day. Through my research on the project I developed a larger understanding of the effects of microplastics and the ways that single use plastic harms our waterways even beyond what we can see. Originally I had only considered larger pieces of pollution as environmental issues. As I researched further, I learned that what comes off of these larger pieces of waste is what’s truly detrimental to the environment and the organisms living within it. After doing this research as well as seeing the pollution in real life, I wanted to make this piece to show the reality of our situation as it should be seen: grotesque, large and upsetting. The piece isn’t meant to be something that takes beauty from pollution but rather demonstrates the vulgarity of it. Additionally, the piece holds a larger meaning for me as it encompases all of the passions I have developed at Poly. I was able to use contemporary art as a form of climate activism while also incorporating elements of my sport by using the imagery of a racing shell, all while employing my dedication to service through the small scale beach cleanup. Although it is not possible now, if given the opportunity I would like to be able to present this art to the Poly Prep community in person. I feel as though the effect of the piece is lost a bit virtually as you can’t see the real size in all of the pieces of waste that went into it. I will be turning the piece into a flower bed in order to continue to repurpose all of the single use waste that went into the project and use it as something positive as it remains in my backyard.