Wednesday, June 15, 2016

On May 27, the Smithsonian National Zoo, in partnership with the community-based environmental advocacy non-profit The Washed Ashore Project , opened the “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea” exhibit. Featuring 17 larger-than-life sculptures made from plastic pollution from the oceans, the free exhibit, which will conclude Sept. 5, treats visitors to various types of marine wildlife, including penguins, jellyfish, and an octopus.

The sculptures themselves exude whimsicality, characterized by bright colors and convincingly realistic textures. Each piece is constructed from hundreds of pieces of trash collected from West Coast beaches; visitors can see fishing nets, bottle caps, aluminum cans, even flip flops. Despite the seemingly innocent nature of the sculptures, they arise out of a larger environmental problem—the 315 billion pounds of trash in our oceans.

Artist Angela Pozzi and her team at The Washed Ashore Project have worked together for years, raising awareness of marine pollution through sculptural art. “I’ve always thought that this should be a global project,” Pozzi said. “We’ve created, in six years, 66 sculptures out of about 18 tons of garbage that just came ashore in a 300 mile stretch. And it’s only just a few people picking it up. What if we got people around the world picking up garbage?”