Saturday, December 31, 2016

COWS - Clean Ocean Wave Sculpture

COWS - Clean Ocean Wave Sculpture at the UNE Marine Science Center

One of my big projects as the artist in residence at University of New England for the fall semester was to create a clean ocean waves sculpture, otherwise known as COWS. The idea came about when I learned that September 17 was International Coastal Cleanup Day.  Susan Farady's Marine Pollution class was scheduled to pick up ocean debris at local beaches. I caught them just in time and asked that instead of disposing of the trash properly, they give it to me for a sculptural installation. 

Work-study students Gillian, Mackenzie and Ben.

My work-study students and I painted a COWS trash bin with a wave on it. We placed it on campus and encouraged other students, friends and strangers to pick up ocean debris and deposit the trash in the COWS bin. 

Next the students diligently collected data on what we'd gathered. In total... 88 plastic bottles, 71 cans, 18 lobster trap pieces, 8 shoes, 7 glass bottles, 4 golf balls, 4 shotgun shells, 3 hats, 1 dog toy, 1 horseshoe, 1 plastic tarp, 1 pink kitty pool, 1 scarf, 1 CD case, 1 portable scale, 1 iron pipe, 1 gift card and lots of plastic bags, food wrappers, fish line and nets.

Ben, Gillian, Lena and Brad shred trash.

The next step was to color sort, clean and shred all of the material into weave-able strips.  

Shredded plastic bottles

We then hung a “loom” of stainless steel wire on the Marine Science Center lobby stair rails.

For three days we engaged the UNE community in a big trash weaving effort:  
UNE students, staff, faculty and even some of my friends and family participated.  

Ben, Galicia and Laura weave trash.

The goal of the project was to engage the UNE community in a hands-on creative project while raising awareness about the amount of ocean debris that washes up on our shores and how vitally important it is for us to keep our ocean clean.  The Clean Ocean Wave Sculpture is now on permanent display at the Marine Science Center. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Henna Tattoo Project at UNE

What an exciting first few days as the Artist-in-Residence at the University of New England.

I decided to kick off my semester with a Henna Tattoo Project to give me some quality one-on-one time with the student community.  Little did I know how popular henna is with the college crowd.

Me, Grayson, her K-tape and henna tattoo.

Students arrived with some familiarity of the beautiful markings of henna tattoos, also known to some as Mehndi. I started off by explaining that this body art was developed in the Middle East and India where it is now used in preparation for celebrations like at weddings and religious holidays in many cultures.  More about the history here.

My intentions with the project were to give students an opportunity to understand history, customs and traditions of another culture. As well as the botany, chemistry and biology of this natural dye.  Since UNE has exceptional science departments, the students were able to teach me much about the science of henna.  I encourage students to choose a design, symbol or imagery that would have meaning or significance to them personally.

I explained that henna is first grown as a flowering shrub before added to other elements and able to produce a dye.

Applied as a gooey substance, the henna mixture is made containing 1/4 cup henna, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 1/2 tsp essential oil with term.  Recipe & instructions.

The lemon juice acidity helps break up the henna leaves and also helps preserve the hydrogen atoms in the mixture. When the mixture is then exposed to oxygen it will darken the dye. The sugar acts as an essential oil that helps keep the henna sticking to the skin along with the added moisture. The henna will seep into the skin over time, which is why we allow it to dry and flake off on its own. Eucalyptus or lavender also aids in the process to temporarily dye the skin.  More about color here.

The darkness of the dye depends on many different factors. For example, some mixtures may have an increased level of dye content, as well as individuals' skin having an increased alkaline level making it darker or different parts of the body may absorb the dye better.