Kristin Myers’ exhibit The Tides of Trash opened this past Friday at Fresh Exhibitions as part of the gallery’s Exhibition Fellowship program. This unique show featuring encaustic and pen and ink drawings comes with a healthy dose of social responsibility: Myers spoke with SAI Editor-in-chief Kayla Goggin about her love of the ocean and her personal crusade to raise awareness for its preservation through her art.
If her cause speaks to you, don’t miss the opportunity to join the artist and members of Art Rise Savannah for a Tybee Beach Clean-Up this Saturday, March 15!
Kayla Goggin: I’m told that this work was all created specifically for this show? What was that process like?
Kristin Myers: I have always lived at the beach and I have been surfing for almost my whole life, so to me, making work about the ocean and/or beach just makes sense. Since completing my graduate degree last year I am able to spend more time on the beach and in the water. Lately I have made it part of my daily routine to take my dog, Dagmar, for a walk on the beach. During these walks, I have started collecting trash (plastic, aluminum cans, mylar balloons, and basically anything that does not belong) and disposing of it properly. In collecting this trash, I became interested and began to do research about the trash in our oceans and its negative impact on not just wildlife and sea life, but humans as well. The statistics are unbelievable. That is when I started making art about trash. My hope is to raise awareness about the amount of trash we create and how it is harming everything around us, including ourselves. What type of world are we leaving behind for the next generation?
KG: Have you always been an environmentalist?
KM: Being a surfer my whole life gave me a unique understanding and respect for our oceans. I have always been conscious of protecting my ocean in anyway I can, but after my recent research on the subject, I have an even greater respect and desire to protect my ocean and its inhabitants.
KG: Has there been a particular experience with the ocean or with the natural world that has impacted you the most?
KM: I’m not sure if this counts, but maybe the first time I went surfing? I watched Bruce Brown’s Endless Summer (the original) movie for the first time when I was 8 or 9 years old. I loved how the surfers seemed to just glide over the water with ease, almost like they were floating. I had to do it. That very same day, I found an old surfboard of my brother’s (an old Town & Country 5’x10” fish, shaped by Glen Minanmi) in our garage and marched up the street and paddled out. No one taught me or showed me, but I wasn’t scared, I was just determined. I figured, how hard could it be to do something I knew I would love? So I just did it. I’ll never forget that first wave I caught. It was like being on top of the world. Ever since then, I have made it a top priority to live at the beach and surf every chance I get.
KG: You’ve said that your work is about fusing the connection between art and the ocean. Can you elaborate on that a bit? Where do you feel that connection is strongest?
KM: As I mentioned before, I have a fierce love of the ocean and surfing. There has only ever been one other thing that I loved to do just as much as surfing, and that’s drawing. If I’m not in the water, I’m probably doodling in a sketchbook. I think it is only natural to try and combine the two things that I love. I find myself focusing on the tiny details of objects, whether it be an aluminum can left of the beach or the rippled texture of a wave, and drawing them with meticulous lined detail. I believe that focusing on the detail helps to bring more attention to the object/subject.
KG: Do you have a favorite place to sit and sketch?
KM: Not really. I take my sketchbook everywhere I go, so I can sketch whenever I have a free minute.
KG: You’ve been exhibiting since 2005. How has your work evolved since then?
KM: My work has changed a lot! When I attended SCAD from 2002 – 06, I was an oil painter through and through. The subject matter was always the same – the ocean, but the medium, style and technique were completely different. I used to mix the oil paint so it was very fluid, like water, and pour it on to a canvas and then move the canvas to manipulate the paint. I always painted with lots of blues as well. I continued to work that way up until I began graduate school in 2011. Then one day, I decided to leave my paint at home. I tried a few new mediums such as sculpture, photography, and encaustic painting, but at the end of the day, I kept returning to my sketchbook and doodling. I started researching artists who draw, and fell in love with art all over again. Specifically, I was inspired by Julie Mehretu’s large abstract drawings. My thesis work for graduate school became a study on the sublimity of Hurricane Sandy, which I portrayed through large-scale, collaged drawings. Since school, I have concentrated on minute details of the trash we find washed up on our beaches.
KG: In lieu of an artist’s talk you’ve decided to organize a beach clean-up on Tybee Island. What are your goals for this event?
KM: My main goal, through my work, is to reach out to people and create an awareness of our current situation. Most people have no idea that a plastic soda bottle takes more than 450 years to decompose in the ocean. Actually, they don’t even decompose. They photograde, which means that the sunlight breaks down the plastic into particles until they become microscopic, but those particles stay in the environment forever. My hope is for people to see my art and intrigue them to ask questions. That’s where it all begins, with a question. Hopefully, in asking questions, my viewers will seek answers and maybe even tell their friends. If more people become educated, then perhaps they will think twice before leaving their trash on the beach or not recycling. Beach cleanups are an easy way to educate and clean our beaches. I pick up trash from the beach everyday. Hopefully through beach cleanups, people will form a habit of not littering and maybe even pick up something that doesn’t belong.
KG: I thought your introduction of encaustic into the show was really inspired. What prompted that decision? That collection of works is so different from your other pieces.
KM: I learned about encaustic painting in my first semester of graduate school, and fell in love immediately. I love the way that you attempt to control the wax, but in the end, it does what it wants. It reminds me of the way I used to paint with oils, but also allows me to integrate my line drawings. I am also very taken with the smell of the wax, haha. It reminds me a bit of surf wax.
The installation of the encaustic works were inspired by another one of my favorite artists, Margaret Killgallen. I like the idea, that art does not have to be hung perfectly at eye level and spaced accordingly to the work next to it. The wave is more organic and fluid just like the ocean, and my intention with it, was to use the installation to lead viewers into the gallery.
KG: There’s a definite focus on the transformative qualities man-made objects introduce into the environment with this exhibition. I noticed that the beer cans, crumpled papers and scraps of rubber you draw are all reminiscent of organic objects like seaweed and shells. Is this intentional?
KM: No, it was not intentional. It’s always interesting to hear what people find in my work though!
KG: What are you working on next?
KM: The ocean’s horizon is filled with endless possibilities.
Come out for Kristin Myers’ Tybee Beach Clean-Up this Saturday, March 15 at 9am. The first dozen people to show up will receive a screen print made from one of her ink drawings of an ocean wave.
The Tides of Trash is currently on view at Fresh Exhibitions, open Saturday 1-4.