Artist Tess Felix creates amazing portraits out of plastic trash she collects near her home in Stinson Beach, CA. She reached out to me in early 2012 when I was finishing up the manuscript of my book to see if she could do my portrait for the book’s jacket. Sadly, it was too late for that. But this summer, she did a series of portraits of ocean advocates–including me–and displayed them this weekend at the Bioneers Conference in Marin County, CA. I think we all look amazing in plastic, if a bit trashy.
But before I show you our portraits, I have to show you what drew me to Tess’s work in the first place. It’s edgy and bold and makes a statement. A plastic mermaid, for example, with a toy gun. Maybe she’s pissed off at what we are doing to our oceans.
This guy is holding on for dear life. Do you think he’s worried about what the endocrine disruptors in all that plastic might be doing to him?
…working with beach plastics, turning garbage and excess into something beautiful, has created a shift in my world view. I now take more responsibility for the items I elect to bring into my life and first, weigh their value carefully.
This past Spring, Tess worked with Marin Surfrider to hold an event showcasing the work of artists working with plastic trash and the work of ocean activists and writers. I was excited to see her portraits up close for the first time. And boy, was that eye-opening. I had assumed that the faces were a combination of plastic and paint. How else could she get such amazing details in the eyes of her subjects?
I was wrong. Every single color is a carefully selected piece of plastic. Check out Tess’s self-portrait, for example.
Look a little closer…
And closer still…
Exquisite in all its roughness. So now you know why I was so excited that Tess wanted to do a portrait of me! We set up a “photo shoot” in a cafe in San Francisco, and Tess took pictures of me in lots of different positions. None of them felt as right as the last one of the day… me sitting casually in my flip flops with one foot up on the bench. So that’s the one she chose.
And this is how it turned out…
First of all, I think Tess made me look way cooler than I really am. But I love that my cheek is a little plastic heart.
And she captured the fact that I am perpetually in flip flops whenever I can get away with it.
And of course, it’s great advertising for my book!
Here are the portraits of my fellow ocean advocates, some of whom are friends and some I have yet to meet:
Richard James, avid coastal cleanup collector and artist who blogs about the plastic he collects at Coastodian.org.
And Manuel Maqueda, international activist and co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. I think, despite how cool my own portrait is, this one may be my favorite.
Here’s what Tess has to say about the collection:
My current collection shows juxtaposition between the subject matter and the plastic materials used to create the portraits. I am deeply affected by the volumes of waste in our environment and I admire the activists, innovators and people who make their voices heard. The people in this series of portraits are the messengers and the voices resounding the urgency of the perilous state of the marine life and the oceans. My aim is to portray beauty and humor and to spark curiosity, conversation and awareness.