The Picture Show
2:32 pm
Wed August 1, 2012

Likes Long Walks On The Beach, Collecting ... Plastic?

After talking to artists Judith and Richard Lang I couldn't stop thinking about the plastic in my life. I looked around my kitchen — at the dish soap bottle, the food storage containers, my kiddo's toys — and realized this stuff might be around for a long, long time.

And not only is plastic everywhere in my house (including the recycling bin) but it also washes up daily, among other places, on Kehoe Beach near San Francisco. That's where the Langs collect it, and then create sculptures that are meant to get you thinking about the plastic in your life.

The Langs were established artists when they went to Kehoe Beach on their first date in 1999. They both bent down to pick up a piece of plastic and said simultaneously, "Are you going to keep that?"

Now they are married and collaborate on art made from all types of plastic pollution, including hair clips, toy soldiers, drink lids and plastic particles called "nurdles."

With a background in the Bauhaus style of art, the Langs pay special attention to the interplay of color and light in their work, which I first came across in a National Parks Magazine spread.

"Even though we are environmentally inclined, we consider ourselves to be artists first, and beauty and intrigue are our first motivations," says Judith. "It's the thing that gets us up and out."

But Richard adds that they are both devastated by the plastics that swirl in our oceans.

"It's so depressing," he says. "The first step is to really feel the grief and let it through."

Even though the Langs don't claim to have the answer to the plastic problem, they do have advice for what people can do.

"You may not live by the beach, but you do live by somewhere, so begin where you are," says Judith. "We have taken on 1,000 yards of one beach, just a tiniest portion of the planet. But if everyone takes on a small part, that's where to begin."

The Langs currently have an exhibit called The Plastic in Question at the San Francisco Public Library. See more of their work on their website.

(Hat tip: National Parks Magazine)

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