Imagine a small black whale. It’s big enough to hold in two hands.
Upon further inspection, the whale is made from plastic. But not just one plastic object. Many of them. Like the heel of a shoe, a spear gun handle, and a goggle strap.
The whale is a piece by marine debris artist Elizabeth Roberts, who’s made marine debris and its prevention her artistic mission.
When she speaks about the whale, Roberts refers back to the time when people hunted whales for oil. She says maybe things haven’t changed so much.
“We don’t really hunt them anymore. We drill for fossil fuels, and I think about kinda all the wars that we’ve been involved with over oil, and how plastic has been created from this oil and now how wales are still dying for oil. They’re ingesting our plastic and washing up on the beach, so we might not be actively hunting them anymore, but we’re still killing
Roberts works for the nonprofit Washed Ashore making large-scale sculptures out of trash from Oregon’s beaches. She’s in Kodiak as an artist-
in-residence for the Kodiak Island Borough School District and is working with local students, but had lived in Kodiak for years before moving to the Lower 48.
Roberts says an experience cleaning up Tugidak Island with the Island Trails Network in 2013 opened her eyes to the issue of marine debris.
“After the first day of picking up trash, you know, at your 300th water bottle, you start to realize that you’re seeing items that you use every day, and it really changed my perspective. When I came back to town, I couldn’t go into the store and buy things that were packaged in plastic and look at it the same way.”
Roberts has a passion for spreading awareness about marine debris’ negative impact on marine life through her art and will display some of her work at the First Friday Art Walk tonight.
The sculptures will be up for viewing between 5 and 7 p.m. at the Gerald C. Wilson Auditorium.