January 9, 2013


Sausalito, California

Every year over 100,000 marine mammals die from the harmful effects of ocean trash. The Ghost Below is an art experience inspired by one whale’s unfortunate meal.

Marin Country artists Richard and Judith Lang have created an art experience from one unsuspecting whale’s diet. This hulking and thought-provoking sculpture, made from a portion of the 450lbs of “ghost nets” and trash found in the belly of a dead sperm whale necropsied by The Marine Mammal Center, is just one heartbreaking tale of what can happen to marine life when humans set their garbage adrift. You’ll see, touch, learn and be inspired to make the ocean a healthier place for all.

The word “ghost” in the exhibit title was inspired by the ghost nets which are lost or discarded at sea by the fishing industry and left to float aimlessly in the oceans for a lifetime. Birds, fish, crabs and marine mammals get caught in this silent floating debris and are lost in what is called “ghost fishing.” It is estimated that ghost nets account for approximately 10% of all marine debris.

Numerous pieces of plastic trash in the Lang’s workshop
© The Marine Mammal Center

In the art exhibit, the “ghost” also applies to the broader problem of ocean trash – our discarded garbage which lurks beneath the surface and haunts the ocean and the marine life that call it home – evident via the numerous seals and sea lions rescued each year that are found suffering from ingestion of or entanglement in ocean trash.

Plastic is Forever 

Since 1999, Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang have been visiting a remote beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore gathering plastic debris that washes out of the Pacific Ocean.

After carefully collecting and “curating” the bits of plastic, they fashion it into works of art—art that matter-of-factly shows the material as it is whilst telling an underlying story about our throwaway culture and our dependency on this thermoplastic junk. As they have deepened their practice, much like archaeologists, they’ve found that each bit of plastic has a story to tell, and although art is always a central theme, their work speaks volumes about a very real environmental problem.

Netting from Pacific Gyre from Project Kaisei
(c) The Marine Mammal Center

Their multifaceted exploration is also a two-part love story which includes their mutual love of art and of this beach, the place they had their first date, and the place that continues to inspire them. They’ve had over 40 exhibitions located in a range of places from local libraries to the SFMOMA and the US Embassy in the Republic of Georgia. Read more about their inspiring art at www.beachplastic.com. The Ghost Below exhibit is currently open to visitors at The Marine Mammal Center.

Originally published by The Marine Mammal Center, in Sausalito, CA


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