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Being an aspiring polyglot, I understand the transformative influence of language. However, it has its limitations: it is not universal. The language of ceramics bypasses these constraints to evoke emotions in a deeply visceral and intuitive manner, imbuing solid slabs of clay with the intangible sentiments and stories of the individual artist.
I seek to raise awareness about issues of sustainability, and art conveys meaning unachievable through mere words. Therefore, I am an installation artist providing social commentary on environmental degradation.
Upon starting a piece, I research the selected animal and its most prominent human-related threats. I tell the horror story of pipelines with spilled oil I collect at English Bay, which I let cascade over the otherwise untainted ceramic bodies of marine animals. I tell the tales fish are unable to, patching and piecing sheets of synthetic-yellow and chrome-silver plastic as scales over clay koi to signify suffocation. Weekly, I scour dumpsters, the waste cabinets of friends, and my school’s kitchen, filling multiple crates with waste – packing peanuts to granola wrappers. I use them, each rich in unique history, to tell the tale of Earth and its future.
I manipulated form and composition on this cardboard painting to further blend the often indistinguishable lines dividing marine life and ocean pollution. The severed base of a plastic bottle to the left resembles the head of a weeping turtle and the blue packaging to the right adopts the form of a fish as the two ‘beings’ camouflage into their surroundings. Rays of light shine through from the top, visually distorting the plastic and illustrating diminished, yet extant, hope.
Refringō is Latin, translating into ‘I break up’ or ‘I refract.’ The battered plastic cup the crab is confined in refracts the image of the animal — are those its eyes or merely the illusions of light?
The plastics epidemic has desensitized us to our continued ‘breaking up’ of the planet. Thus, our detached perception of the animals we proceed to devestate is, too, ‘refracted.’
Fish Are What Fish Eat
We are what we eat. I sought to viscerally depict the litter fish consume, which ultimately is ingested by us as we eat fish. Perhaps an understanding of the cyclical nature of littering will prevent pollution altogether: wouldn’t you hesitate at tossing a Coke bottle into a nearby waterway with the recognition that it could ultimately be digested within your own body?
The serenity of the artwork’s landscape is in stark contrast with the damaging plastic materials the fish are constructed with. I used jarring, synthetic-colored plastic — chrome-silver packaging and noxious-green mesh— as a nod to aposematism, an animal’s use of brilliant coloring to signify toxicity. Against a comparatively muted backdrop, the fish unintentionally convey a distinct message: that they, in a sense, are lethal to eat due to our actions.
In this mixed media composition, the nets adopt the structure of barbed wire. Networks of sharks remain confined in these nets, with netting wound around the beings’ gills, fins, and tails to exhibit them as victims of cruel and non-sustainable poaching. The artificial and natural are contrasted through disparities between black and white and sharp and smooth. The once-marble sharks have developed a dark, sooty coloration due to the black wiring to illustrate the lethality of pervasive netting: it has permeated even skin. The artwork illustrates the imbalanced power dynamic between man and nature and the former’s willingness to exercise absolute control over the latter.
Sum/Some Of Its Parts
This mock museum exhibit is constructed with used and discarded batteries. The wooden stand and sign are reminiscent of a museum display, highlighting the inability of batteries to biodegrade and reintegrate into the natural environment. Further, the artwork investigates the notion that discarded litter can be repurposed into art. We should seek beauty in the mundane, permanence in the forgotten, art in waste.
This display illustrates the irreversible, corruptive influence of oil spills on marine habitats. I painted models of oil barrels black, using paint mixed with spilled oil sourced from English Bay, to contrast the white animals. Oil suffocates wildlife, smothering gills and blow-holes, and the artwork’s simulated leaks employ ‘in media res’ to depict anticipated destruction. A frame surrounds the art in gray: our environment is nature blemished by the artificial. The ceramic animals are situated on top of a photo of English Bay, reminding us that the horrors of oil pollution are not implausible nightmares but realities at our doorstep.
I sought to highlight the non-degradable nature of packaging foam and its adverse effects on the environment. Rather than swimming in the naturally-occurring foam of seawater, the ceramic whales are imprisoned in an overflowing and overwhelming sea of plastic.
This sculpture parodies the notion of alternate realities to demonstrate irreversible environmental degradation. We are familiar with Earth as depicted by the blue-green sphere (fifth from the left); the remaining four represent more dystopian possibilities. From left to right, the spheres respectively portray the planet engulfed in flames due to desertification, inundated with the rapid accumulation of land-based litter, damaged by pipeline leaks in oceans due to corporations’ indiscriminate waste disposal, and flooded with melting ice and rising sea levels at the polar regions.
Aposematism visits the notion that bright coloration is indicative of danger in nature. However, in these sculptures, the only signs of danger are presented by artificial elements — brilliant yellow packaging and multi-colored plastic beads — rather than any biological features. The series exhibits the lack of agency animals possess over the existence of plastic in their surroundings.
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Dreamcatcher for West Point Grey Academy
I continued to collaborate with Norma Coronel and the two of us created a dreamcatcher gift for WPGA on behalf of the graduating class of 2023. WPGA has a long tradition of partnership with Hogar de Gina, and the white and red colors represent both Canada and Peru — where the two institutions are located.(Left: My principal holding the dreamcatcher Norma and I made.)