Monday, November 9, 2015


Welcome to Georgia

We never imagined when we started picking up plastic trash from Kehoe Beach that we would end up in Columbus, Georgia USA. Neither of us had ever been to Columbus and the only person we knew was by email—Emily Gray Holton chair for the GAEA (Georgia Art Educators Association) conference. But by the end of the weekend, we were embraced by the warm arms of that gracious southern hospitality, making friends galore.

In preparation for our presentation we surveyed artist friends, about their school experiences, about positive/negative teachers who encouraged or discouraged them on the path. Judith, in elementary school in Dallas Texas, had the good fortune of having a dedicated art teacher and dedicated art room. Along with experiments in making batik and hand-sewn book bindings, the bold teacher even hiked her rowdy 5th grade class out to the woods to sit quietly, to observe nature, and to do plein-air painting. 

With all of budget cuts (art and music are usually the first to go) art teachers scrimp and improvise materials to have enough to serve their students. Rethunk Junk, the title and theme for the 2015 conference, was planned with workshops, a trade show and us as keynote speakers to give teachers new ideas about how to innovate with materials that might otherwise be considered trash. 

We each have had many years in the classroom so we were eager to be with our tribe: maker people who like to make things; who like to make things happen. Teachers who believe that art is an important part of the curriculum — that involvement in the arts improves concentration, confidence and problem solving. And, beyond the skill building, gives a deeper appreciation of that most human experience — making art.

How refreshing to be in a place we have never been so that every vista, every road was the "road not (yet) taken"…

Thursday evening when we walked into the Columbus Museum of Art, the place was rockin'. Conference people (in this case an all-women crew) were in full swing nae-nae-ing and whip it line dances in the museum atrium. We were dazzled by the Museum's collection including the recent acquisition of a Paul Manship sculpture—The Flight of Europa. Like Europa, we were ready for fun.


Emily and her intrepid team co-chairs (sister Erin Gray and Denise Marsh) put together an amazing array of hands-on workshops, exhibitions, and events along with many opportunities for sipping and socializing. Richard even picked up the brush.

Friday morning we meandered the famed RiverWalk along the Chattahoochee River. We strolled up stream to the rapids and the towering brick edifice that was once the Phenix Mill Hydro power plant. For Northerners and especially Californians, we were struck by the informational plaques that seemed to be placed every 1/2 block memorializing Civil War events. There was more often than not the prominent mention of "Invading Federal Forces" a reminder that the War is still very much alive in the minds of the citizenry. It's a town made of brick, glamorous to we fault-liners who don't see so much of it in earthquake territory. The hotel, a former warehouse, the College, an armory— all from deep red brick.

The conference was held at Columbus Ironworks Trade Center, a magnificent convention facility developed in the city's historic ironworks, where the iron cladding for the CSS Merrimack was forged along with the first breech-loading cannon. Across the road from our digs was Columbus State University that has an impressive state of the art arts facility. And just a short walk over the bridge is Alabama.

Friday evening we wowed 'em with our own brand of hospitality. Our song and dance routine, our power punch of a powerpoint was a hit. Judith even told her naughty joke and they laughed and broke into applause. We offered insights into our creative process and the fun we have at the beach and in the studio. 

Richard began with Rilke's Growing Orbits

"I live my life in growing orbits
which move out over the things of the world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years,
and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song."

The next morning at breakfast even the plastic butter cup captured the attention of the conference attendees. What ever happened to the pats of butter on a thin slip of cardboard with a piece of wax paper on top?

And speaking of butter, we lathered on the butter and poured on the gravy as in Biscuits and Gravy.The ultimate in homestyle comfort food. And Grits, baby! Grits!

Judith's jewelry was an attention getter. There was much interest in the how-to of the pull tab bracelet and the necklace made of scraps of coffee cups meat trays, and other bits of styrofoam. For more about her jewelry visit her blog.

Any conference that begins with dancers rocking at the Museum and concludes with the Cathy Heller, past- President of GAEA leading a flash mop in a clog dance ensemble that included Waldo, Sunny and Cher and 2 (two) nuns. It was Halloween.


After the evening festivities of the conference we went to uptown Columbus.  We sat in a sidewalk Café sushi joint watching the parade of costumes. Seemed all of Columbus was in the costume-age mode even though we've heard that Halloween is cast as the devil's work (often called Harvest Fest lest Satan be invoked). Lots of clad and scantily-clad folks out enjoying the warm balmy air. A pair of San Francisco style glamour-tranny's sat at a table next to us, seeming to navigate the super-high heels with casual aplomb. Where are we? Then, we knew we were smack dab in the Bible Belt, when we saw HIM strolling through town. 

We are grateful that Lauren Christine Phillips while giving us a lift back to Atlanta fulfilled Richard's wish to see some of that famous Georgia red clay. She toured us through the beautiful grounds of Callaway Gardens in the southern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The Memorial Chapel fashioned after a 16th century Gothic chapel is where Richard did a hallelujah shout-out for our time in Georgia. Yes, Reverend Lang is in da'house.

At the airport we were captivated by colleague Pam Longobardi's installation of Drift Nets from her Drifters Project. Pam is a tireless advocate for the oceans and has the high honor of being a Distinguished University Professor, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia. 

After what seemed to be an interminable flight (with a screaming baby) back to California, we made it home safe and sound. We are sure that instead heading directly west the pilot took us the long way around. We think they routed us through Dubai. Although we were plum wore out by the time we arrived, we are so happy to have brought that rainy night in Georgia home with us — with more rain forecast for today.

We conclude the report from our time in the South with the final word from Emily:


We will always remember the melodic roll of her drawl, the dipthonged vowels, make the word DONE doooneee go on forever.


Most people go blank when they hear the numbers — 46,000 this, one million that statistics almost incomprehensible because of their magnitude. Since the problem of plastic pollution is so big we thought some simple visual graphics would add some punch to our powerpoint. 

When artist/illustrator Michael Bartolos asked if he could trade the use of the windows and studio space at Electric Works for his design services we jumped at the chance to use his skills as a graphic artist to create some informative visuals to represent the statistics about what is happening in the oceans. 

We had our first opportunity to try them out at the Georgia Art Educators Association Conference.

This shopping cart graphic really got the message across when the slide came up and we counted out, lingering for pauses: "One...two...three...four...five...

Thanks to Michael for great ideas made visible.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


We grew up with the myth of the solitary artist, starving in a garret, wresting a vision from the depths of the soul. A lonely existence — why would anyone aspire to such suffering? But, as the myth goes, the rewards are great — that devotion to suffering for the creative life would be inscribed in the annals of art history, or at least a mention in the back pages of Artforum magazine.

So you might imagine that we when we met, the idea of collaborating met with a bit of resistance. Could the sum of the parts really be greater than our individual efforts? Could we really join forces with someone we love to make art?

The research proves true that humans have a long history of working together, whether tiling the soil or building a monumental cathedral, many hands make light work. As a noun it is called team-work; as a verb, coupling; or maybe yoking up to pull a heavier wagon. There is a quite a list of couples who have changed art history: the Delauneys, the Eames, Gilbert and George, Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

In 1999 we forged an artist partnership to work with plastic found on Kehoe Beach. Since then, as our collection of plastic has grown, we have grown as individuals and as collaborators. Now with the Venn Diagram of our lives set we understand the challenges and pleasures of working with each other and we have have worked successfully with curators and directors who have helped to enlarge our project, adding other circles to our set. We appreciate the lively conversations that ensue when problem solving big issues about installations and exhibitions. As we like to say, we play well with others.

Thanks to director Farley Gwazda at the Worth Ryder Gallery at UC Berkeley we prepared the table for participation for the exhibit theme (processing). Farley was interested in engaging students in our sorting methods so we were able to experiment with the idea of adding circles to our Venn Diagram by including others in our collaboration. Visitors would complete the table setting by sorting and arranging pieces of plastic on the plates we provided. 

Check these fun fab pics of the (processing) opening reception with in-action shots of people gathered around our table of plastic, creating plates full of amazing arrangements.

In the corridor adjacent to the gallery, our posters asked passersby for help identifying plastic objects from our collection. Inspired by the have you seen me? question posed on milk cartons, our posters evoked written responses — both serious and sublime. 

We are pleased to be in the fine company of other artists whose work addresses society’s endless accumulations: Bay Area Society for Art & Activism, Carrie Hott, Rose Khor, Heather Murphy, Sugata Ray, Danielle Schlunegger, Andrew Ananda Voogel, and Tali Weinberg.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A rose is a rose

Judith files this special report:

It was a dream of a dream to wake in the middle of the night to hear the sound of rain. Unfamiliar, unexpected, unpredicted, rain. My dream sighed relief.

After almost three years of drought we Californians are feeling parched so that any, any amount of moisture from the sky is a blessing.

A hike with Rebecca Didomenico is like that — a dream of the magic of the unexpected and although I know well the hike from Abbott's Lagoon to Kehoe Beach, our far-ranging conversation had me traveling in unexpected territory. 

Her expansive creativity — she is always on the case, generating new ideas and visions, along with her love of the banter of problem solving make her an ideal walking/talking companion. Fueled by her description of globes of umbrellas, magic carpets suspended in space and a 100 foot mica and ribbon bridge along with my own flights of fantasy, we trekked the beach at a lively pace. And, did I say, she is a star!!!

She described her upcoming trip to Paris for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change and her idea about having her most recent installation Emanate on display during this crucial time when world leaders will be convening to discuss the climatological roadmap to the future. In a magnificent obsession Rebecca has razor cut away the land from hundreds of paper road maps leaving the intricate web of highways and byways. A stunning visual of what has been paved and what remains of ground. Has me thinking of the impact fossil fuel transport and the apt line from Joni Mitchell's song, Big Yellow Taxithey paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

We talked about places she might, in a gesture of impromptu transgression, just hang them up, if even only long enough to snap a pic — the Tuileries Garden, the pyramid courtyard at the Louvre, or the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

I was reminded of my own impromptu enactment of a transgression at 
The Garden of the Imagination, Les Jardins de l’Imaginairein Terrasson in the valley of Vézère in 2002.

In 2001/2002 Richard and I served as painting instructors for travel excursions to the Dordogne Region of France. In 2001, while visiting the garden with our troop of students, I was enthralled with the abundance of glorious blooms of rare and exotic varieties in the rose garden and the trough, a water channel that originated in the rosary that stepped down the long hillside to an expansive view overlooking the Vézère Valley and the village of Terrasson-Lavilledieu below, designed by landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson. 

Captivated by the journey of the water and with the stages of the initiation that the course expressed, I felt moved to make an art piece that would commune with that place in time. I imagined creating a lovely temporal transgression — a bouquet of roses to float downstream.

With this thought in mind I took many close-up photographs of the roses. Back at home in my studio, I enlarged the photographs then affixed them to foam core. A thin layer of transparent casting resin made the images floatable and impervious to water. 

In 2002, my lightweight "blossoms" were secreted away in my luggage so it was a great surprise to my traveling companions when I enacted my floating roses.

As I gently placed each blossom on the surface of the water and they began to slowly meander downstream, we all gasped in amazement. It was an uncanny vision made even more improbable that this was only for this passing moment. After the thirty roses completed their journey to the bottom of the hill I gathered them up and put them back in my handbag. 

It was a moment (30 minutes really) of triumph intend to be only for that moment. I had a vision and I was able to realize it. Had I asked permission, I most probably would never been have been able to accomplish what I had hoped. I took a chance. I had a vision and I was able to realize it.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Coastal Clean Up 2015

No fog, just clear skies and warm.

No plastic, or so it would appear. Then keened-eyed Janis found a Kraft Handi-snack cheese spreader.

OK — we are off and running.

It's Coastal Clean Up Day and 75 people give or take came to Drakes Beach to pitch in on the planets biggest volunteer effort. 10,000 people participated at Manila Bay, Philippines.
In Manatee County, Florida some 1700 folks turned out.

For Marin County the count is still being tallied. But we do know that Janis collected 14 lbs. and Judith 11 lbs. that included bags full of sibling rivalry.

After the clean up the Selby-Jones-Lang team headed for the Bay Model and the Lion's Club volunteer appreciation BBQ and to celebrate Janis' artistic documentation that, as a visitor wrote in her guest book, "Art is the new science for decisions."  

Janis' bold images of plastic posed on the horizon that she takes during her daily walks on the beach in Carlsbad are great reminders that everyday is a day for cleaning up.

Janis' reunited with best old friends from 40+ years ago from her formative years on 34th Avenue, Sacramento.

The Bay Model has kid-friendly interactive educational displays. So just in case you were wondering, just flip flap for the answer:

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Have you seen me?

Making Waves

It has been 4+ years since One Plastic Beach hit the waves. We are so grateful to Eric Slatkin and Tess Thackara, director and producer, who created a film that has entertained and educated untold numbers of people all over the planet. 

There have been some 172,000 views on Vimeo alone. It has traveled to some 25 plus film festivals and screenings at schools and exhibitions and it just won't quit.

On September 13 it played in New York City in conjunction with Future Fossils, an exhibition curated by Tess Thackara and Yulia Topchiy. 

Tess sent this pic of it on screen at the gallery:

Since 2012 thanks to Jennifer Heath our film has been traveling in the media show Water Water Everywhere : Paean to a Vanishing Resource and will set down for a spell at the Huntington Museum of Art in Huntington, West Virginia from September 19, 2015 - June 19, 2016. 

In October it will screen in Pittsburgh, PA as part of an environmental and conservation-themed film festival organized by the Pennsylvania Resources Council and Allegheny Cleanways, an anti-litter non-profit.

OPB just keeps making waves. It is truly the short film that could.