BANDON — After her husband’s early death in 2004, a heartbroken artist moved here to find herself.
The move would not only change Angela Haseltine Pozzi’s life, but define her career.
“I came to the ocean to heal and found an ocean that needed healing,” Pozzi said as she glanced at the beach garbage she and a group of more than 100 local volunteers had transformed into sculptures at her workshop, Washed Ashore.
Pozzi and her volunteers have built 13 sea sculptures made entirely from trash that had washed ashore on local beaches. She now runs a nonprofit group, Artula, and is in negotiations to take her sculptures on a world tour in January 2012.
The idea to turn ocean trash into art came to Pozzi — who already had a successful career creating sea-inspired sculptures out of such ordinary objects as clothing — during walks along Oregon’s beaches.
Before dying of a brain tumor, Pozzi’s husband always had urged her to create art that was meaningful, Pozzi said.
“He would look at my art and say, ‘This is really great, but what is the point?’ And I would just get furious!” Pozzi smiled at the memory. Now, her art has a point, she said.
After seeing the piles of discarded plastic from around the world washed up on beaches, Pozzi did some Googling, and it wasn’t long before an obsession was born.
From her Bandon studio — a purple yurt surrounded by piles of carefully sorted, color-coordinated piles — Pozzi can rattle off statistics about sea trash, which is almost entirely plastic.
Some sea turtles are becoming endangered because of plastic grocery bags that find their way into the oceans, she said. A plastic bag floating in the water looks like a jellyfish. An unsuspecting turtle tries to eat the plastic bag, chokes and dies.
Most of the garbage along Oregon’s beaches arrives here from overseas, Pozzi said. She held up a leftover piece of punched-out Dr. Keller shoe sole that was most likely dumped by an overseas factory.
“It really makes us think about our use of plastic,” Pozzi said. “Because we use it for everything and we’re told it is disposable, but it never goes away.”
She began building the sculptures in January 2010 and became a 501(c)3 in March. In October, Pozzi took the show on the road, up and down the West Coast. She has a display at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif.
“We are showing people what is happening in ways they cannot ignore,” Pozzi said. “If you just show people a big pile of garbage they will say, ‘Ew,’ and walk away.”
But if you take that garbage and build an enormous, colorful fish, people will stop and admire the art, and then become intrigued by the message, and then concerned by the problem, Pozzi said.
She’s talking about people like Pam Gianola and her husband, Craig Strong, who stopped at Washed Ashore on Thursday afternoon. The couple, who are from Crescent City, Calif., were taking a road trip along the Oregon coast.
“This happens every day,” Pozzi said as she hurried over to greet the couple.
Gianola and Strong examined the sculptures sitting along U.S. Highway 101.
“It’s amazing this is all off the beach,” Gianola said to her husband. “It is so sad.”
Pozzi’s message has caught on with gusto. She has had requests from people around the world who want to host the show. So Pozzi has become determined to take her show on a global tour in the coming months.
America's Cup, a yacht-racing group that travels the world, has expressed an interest in partnering with Washed Ashore. If those negotiations pan out, Pozzi hopes to raise $25,000 in the next week to cover the cost of building crates to haul the sculptures.
Pozzi is seeking donations either on Washed Ashore’s website, www.washedashore.org, or through Artula’s account at Sterling Savings Bank.
“Even small donations help,” Pozzi said. “Twenty dollars is wonderful. Anything helps.”
Reporter Jessie Higgins can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or firstname.lastname@example.org.