The Journey of Cast Ashore Plastic Debris | Museums

Artist Pam Longobardi utilizes cast ashore plastic debris as the primary material for her Drifters Artwork Project. The Baker Museum, Artis-Naples is proud to partner with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to enhance the educational impact of “Ocean Gleaning,” an installation of Longobardi’s work now on display through July 24th.

“Bounty Pilfered” is in the shape of a cornucopia which traditionally symbolizes abundant harvest. Instead, it’s a bounty of abandoned fishing floats and driftnets.

After discovering an extensive amount of plastic debris on the remote shores of Hawaii in 2005, Longobardi has channeled her lifelong love of the ocean into an artistic practice that transforms these discarded objects into large installations of art. For more than 15 years, Longobardi has traveled the world, much like her plastic pieces, collecting and documenting their journey.

In preparation for this exhibition in Naples, Longobardi cleaned several beaches in Naples over the course of many months, including a beach cleanup at Clam Pass in September, 2021. Participants recovered polystyrene foam buoys and fishing lines which were included in the current installation.

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“Swerve.” Marianne Foley found something familiar within these 500 pieces of ocean plastic.

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“Consumption Web” is made of washed ashore drift nets that entangles marine life and buoys made of polystyrene foam.

According to Longobardi, we are surrounded by plastic every moment of everyday life and nearly every human on this planet has been in contact with it. She is fascinated with what happens to plastic after we finish using it and that is where her artwork projects come in.

She is interested in plastic that has gone through the natural world, through the currents of the ocean and how forces of nature form and deform it. As the plastic piece becomes a drifter, it is changed and deposited on a beach, acting as a messenger and telling us that we need to pay attention.

Longobardi takes a forensic approach to her art pieces, examining each piece and considering them as evidence of humankind’s crime against nature. She looks for clues; what kind of creature left a tooth mark on it? Does she recognize it? She wants to show people what happens to our everyday stuff like combs, toothbrushes, sandals and toys with this journey.

She created a Forensic Wall at the exhibit. Objects that we use everyday end up being ingested by many marine lives and for Longobardi, it is a crime “of reckless endangerment of life as toxic chemicals are released into the sea.” Each individual piece is considered as evidence of a crime against the natural world.

Longobardi presented everyday objects after they’ve made the transformative journey from the factory to her art display. The Ocean Gleaning Exhibition is an exhibit for contemplation and discussion. You will never look at a plastic object the same way again.

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“Unforeseen Outcome of Ingenious Deception”. Fishing lures, hooks, nets and line removed over a three-month period from injured pelicans and other native shorebirds by the von Arx Wildlife Hospital Staff at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

How are people responding after visiting her exhibit?

Marianne Foley from Marco Island visited the exhibit with a group of friends and remarked that “the exhibit certainly touched me. The One World Ocean Art display was next to a large sea serpent that was portrayed as evil and menacing. It made me think that we have to be better stewards of our environment if we don’t want our environment to take on these disturbing characteristics.” Marianne added that she will collect trash the next time she goes to the beach.

Mary Aronin suggested bringing your own “doggy bag” or container next time you go out to eat to save from adding another container to the landfill. And a reminder “to bring your reusable bags to the grocery store and avoid collecting single use plastic.”

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In this display case of small objects, Longobardi invites visitors to examine them using a forensic approach.

Cristina Leske lamented “so sad to see the trash we’re throwing in the poor ocean; we are destroying our planet with our over dependence on plastic. It is a ubiquitous material but we should all use less of it.”

Longobardi’s Ocean Gleaning Exhibit of cast ashore plastic debris is already starting this conversation. Her message is to minimize our interaction with disposable plastic. We can do a lot as a community – join a beach cleanup; if you are a speaker – speak about it; if you are an artist, like Longobardi, make art with a message to protect the ocean and its creatures; If you are a policy maker, advocate for better stewardship of our natural resources.


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