The Pacific Garbage Patch as art

Garbage patch gyre mural by Allison Newsome

Do you ever feel like we’re swimming in garbage? Well, we are, both figuratively and literally (or litter-ally). Trash is everywhere. When I go for walks around my neighborhood, I always see trash…always. Usually, it’s fast food containers, leaflets that have fallen off cars and plastic bags.

Since I see trash all the time, I also spending a lot of time thinking about it. What are we going to do with all this trash? What are the consequences going to be down the road from this “throw away” mentality? What could we do differently to reduce the amount of trash and single-use plastic products? Why is there so much litter when there’s a dumpster 10 feet away? Well, you get the idea.

Thankfully, I’m not the only person who ponders these things and I was fortunate enough to connect with another concerned citizen on Twitter. Allison Newsome is an artist who teaches ceramics at Harvard University and creates works of art that raise awareness about the state of our environment. She sent me a link to a video documenting one of her recent creations, the “Garbage Patch Gyre.”

Garbage patch gyre mural by Allison Newsome

The video shows Allison meticulously assembling a large ceramic mural entirely out of clay, while using rope, netting and trash to capture and form the shapes and designs. When I saw the finished work of art at the end of the video I was astonished; it captured everything I thought and felt about trash. Her art depicts better than words the situation we’ve found ourselves in. We are swimming in trash, caught in our own web of garbage.

Allison hopes to bring greater awareness to the massive amounts of garbage floating in our oceans, which are caught in a continuously revolving ocean gyre, commonly referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

She summed up her efforts in her artist statement:

“This year I have created a large body of work that brings  awareness to the ‘Garbage Patch’ gyres in our oceans. My work speaks of the critical environmental issues surrounding the growing micro plastics amassing in our oceans by namely plastics used to transport food and beverage in the form of bottles, bags, round or square containers, all tangled in rogue nylon fishing nets.

The work at large raises the question  of our current human psyche. We are ‘child like’ in how we take nature for granted. We are supported unconditionally by nature, but to what extent?  When will nature stop supporting our culture, when will our oceans stop absorbing our  garbage and soaring CO2 emissions. I can only hope that as I explore these avenues of thought, I shall continue to create significant works of art that engage, educate and enlighten the public. These are critical times.  Art and science must work together in any way or form to move toward a symbiotic existence  between Nature and Culture.”

Well said! Definitely watch the video showing Allison create this amazing work of art that says everything without truly saying anything. But that’s the beauty of art, it speaks for itself.

For those interested in finding out more about Allison’s work, please visit her website. Her art will also be featured in an exhibit at the Beatrice Wood Center in Ojai opening November 1, 2013, and for those interested in learning pottery she will be teaching a class at the end of October.


  1. says

    Our oceans are dynamic systems, made up of complex networks of currents that circulate water around the world. Large systems of these currents, coupled with wind and the earth’s rotation, create “gyres”, massive, slow rotating whirlpools in which plastic trash can accumulate.

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