NEW ORLEANS — Huge sculptures of sea life are dotted about New Orleans’ aquarium and zoo , all of them made from plastic trash that washed ashore. There’s a great white shark made partly of bottle caps and beach toys and a jellyfish made mostly of cut-up water bottles.
The artwork, part of a project called Washed Ashore : Art to Save the Sea, is the creation of Angela Haseltine Pozzi, who started making the pieces after seeing plastic heaped by the waves onto Oregon’s southern coast. Pozzi was in the town of Bandon, where her grandparents had lived, mourning her first husband’s death.
“I’d known its beaches all my life,” she said. “I went to the ocean to heal and found that the ocean needed healing.”
She wants the scale of her creations to make people realize just how much plastic gets into the ocean — and to act on that knowledge. Signs next to each piece suggest simple ways to reduce the problem, such as not using plastic straws, re-using water bottles, and picking up other people’s litter.
“Every piece of trash picked up and properly disposed of is a piece that will not cause harm to local environments and animals,” states the sign for “Greta the Great White Shark.”
Pozzi’s aim is art that is “beautiful, and a little horrifying.”
An army of volunteers in Oregon — about 10,000 since Pozzi started in 2010 — help her collect, prepare and assemble the beach trash into art. One of their wash-basins for plastic is a bathtub also found on the beach.
She now has more than 70 pieces in three exhibitions currently traveling the U.S., and has requests from overseas. Her work has been displayed at zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens, and she has permanent exhibits at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and a gallery in Bandon.
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is currently showing six sculptures, while one of a puffin is on display at the Audubon Zoo; more pieces will be added to both locations in October.
In addition to the shark and two jellyfish sculptures, there’s a walk-through whale ribcage made with bucket lids, bottles, buoys and bait traps; a marlin with a beak made of fishing rods; and percussive “Musical Seaweed.” That statue’s long leaves include metal and plastic bottle caps strung on wires so they rattle when a leaf is hit lightly.