Fused recycled plastic – going global

I have been fusing used plastic bags for a few years now.  I often paint them with acrylic paints and then fuse a few layers together to get a stiff fabric that I can sew into jewelry pieces or incorporate into larger sculptures.

I have blogged about the piece that the Union of Concerned Scientists acquired a few years ago, “Can’t See the Forest for the Trees”

which included heavy-weight boutique shopping bags and Whole Foods vegetable bags labeled “ORGANIC” in a comment about the irony of earth-conscious consumption feeding our need to feel responsible (by buying local and organic) while adding to other environmental issues by increasing the demand for plastic.

I also made a fused wedding dress out of Target bags for a show at the Torpedo Factory:

This is an image of the bodice. This was another comment on consumption and excess vs bargain-hunting.

More recently, the piece called “Core, Drill, Spill” that I collaborated on with Michele

Banks and Ellyn Weiss for our Voyage of Discovery exhibit (shown at the American Association for the Advancement o

f Science and the McLean Project for the Arts in 2014) included about 2,000 bags fused into about 200 square layers and assembled into three pieces representing ice cores.

We liked the way the whiter and bluish layers looked somewhat like layers in ice core samples.  And then we used other colors to show a change in elements and substances found in more recent samples.  The final core/column included black garbage bags spilling out of the bottom to represent potential oil spills, now that the Arctic ice is melting and the water is open enough for oil exploration.  An accident is almost inevitable, and at the time we were making the piece, I think that was one of our biggest fears for drilling in the region – a catastrophic spill.

My experimentation with this medium will continue – although thankfully it is getting more difficult to find the raw materials as businesses choose to avoid plastic bags (or charge for them).   I plan to incorporate plastic into the Bycatch net series as well, especially as I move to pieces that involve coastal communities, where plastic is increasingly found on beaches and floating in the fishing grounds.

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