[click "Play" to hear Susan's conversation with Judith and Richard]
kicker: trash to treasure
The ordinance followed the popularity of the film “Bag It,” made by Telluride local Suzan Beraza. “Bag It,” which screened on National Public Television in April and garnered awards at film festivals across the country, became as much a call-to-action as a documentary, not just locally, but nationally.
“Bag It” is just one of a number of populist responses to another film, the Sixties pop phenomenon “The Graduate,” a movie that predicted a future of plastics. Artists Judith Selby Lang and Richard Lang’s work represents another kind of response. They make “found art.”
“Found art” is a term applied to art created from undisguised but modified objects not normally be considered art worthy because of an intrinsically non-artistic function. Picasso famously used found objects as a basis for some of his creations. For example, he joined a bicycle saddle with handle bars to form the head of a bull. Jeff Koons built a career in part on commodity-based sculpture. And who does not remember Damien Hirst’s shark preserved in formaldehyde in a glass tank? Hirst called the work “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.”
In 1999, the Langs began curating plastic debris off Kehoe Beach, a remote stretch of the Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California, the scene of their very first date. Their booty generally includes everything from cereal box action figures to multi-colored milk jug lids, combs, toy soldiers, disposable lighters, cheese spreaders. Back in the couple’s studio, the pieces get cleaned, categorized (color and kind) and stored before being transformed into eco-art: sculpture, mosaics, installations, photo tableaux, jewelry.
The content of the Lang’s work sends a message about the spoiling of the natural world by an industrialized world. And it’s an important message. Below are just a few of the sordid facts:
• The average American uses about 500 plastic bags each year, for an average of 12 minutes, before they are discarded.
• 14 million pounds of trash end up in the ocean each year.
• It is estimated that 100,000 marine mammals and sea birds die every year from becoming entangled in or ingesting plastic debris.
Beyond the message, even beyond the idea of recycling, there is another major point to the Langs’ work: to celebrate beauty, yes, from trash, and the creative impulse.
Mountainfilm’s director David Holbrooke asked the Langs to create the 2011 Festival awards.
Follow these links to preview a film that will be shown at Mountainfilm in Telluride: http://vimeo.com/18672227; to view Chris Jordan’s portfolio at Elecric Works, http://www.sfelectricworks.com/artists/jordan/index.html.
To learn more about the Langs, their life together and their work, click the “play” button and listen to their interview.