I have been painting ships coming and going from the NYC Harbor for about a year. I am impressed by the ships’ massive size, like a city floating in from the ocean. They are sublime and they are destructive. They move deep through the water, spewing waste into the ocean and carbon into the air. The propellers chop through ecosystems beneath the water’s surface. I am captivated by these different ships constantly coming and going one after the other. Some carry oil or gas and others consumer goods imported from thousands of miles away. Much of the Styrofoam sprinkled along the coast is from these ships carrying cargo from overseas. The ships unpack their goods, allowing shipping materials like Styrofoam to blow into the bay. I have become more resentful of these giants, leading me to think of how I can make a difference.
I walk through my neighborhood with a growing feeling of stewardship. I live in Bay Ridge, with views of the Verrazano Narrows and the NYC Harbor. I am feeling complicit. Neighborhoods like mine are the last stop for plastic waste before it ends up in the ocean. I have been using cloth shopping bags for the last couple of years, getting away from plastic. We recycle everything that comes through our home. Although, I find myself driving when I don’t need to, or I walk by a bag drifting down the sidewalk. I have started to do something more than what I was before. I pick up that plastic bag, I ride my bike when I might not feel like it. If I am somewhere where I know something may not be recycled, I take it with me and recycle it myself and in doing so, I am taking responsibility into my own hands. I am making paintings that show the pollution we as individuals can do something about. I want others to see what I see and feel the same anger and remorse I feel. A plastic bag I see floating down the road or a straw sitting in the drainage grate is on its way to the ocean unless I stop it.
A related series of paintings that I have recently begun are on a macro-level like the giant ships. This is the deregulated fossil fuel industry. I began painting power plants in the NYC area earlier this year. The current government has reversed direction on energy, encouraging pollution and denying climate change. This angers me and drives me to make paintings of these injustices.