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Member Spotlight l Judith Selby Lang

Monday, February 19, 2024 10:39 AM | Anonymous


February 19, 2024

This week we recognize  Judith Selby Lang, and her works made since 1999 in collaboration with her partner Richard Lang, working with plastic debris collected along the Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California.

Unaccountable Proclivities, 2001 (above), combines the colors of the ocean plastic that mimics and compliments Fiesta®Ware plates. It was an unaccountable proclivity that moved them to create these arrangements. By carefully collecting and "curating" the bits of plastic, they fashion them into works of art that matter-of-factually show, with minimal artifice, the material as it is. The viewer is often surprised that this colorful stuff is the thermoplastic junk of our throwaway culture. As they deepened their practice they found, like archeologists, that each bit of what they find opens into a pinpoint look at the whole of human culture. Each bit has a story to tell.

 click images for more info

Unintended Consequences (above) was a series of photographs presented at the U.S. Art in Embassies, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, September 2010 - June 2012, organized by the US Art in Embassies program and was a collaboration between Ambassador John Bass and Assistant Curator Claire D'Alba.

for here or to go?, 2021 (above) was a large scale installation presented at Lands End, at the former Cliff House, San Francisco, a project of the FOR-SITE Foundation. In the kitchen, the steam tables were filled with white plastic and white ceramic plates were piled with white beach plastic. All of the plastic dished up was found only on 1000 yards of Kehoe Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore. It wasn’t left by negligent picnickers. Most of it has been at sea a long time before washing ashore. When the common use of plastic found its way into our lives during WWII, plastic was touted as an exciting new material that would revolutionize and indeed, it has provided new hips and knees, allowing for unbelievable medical advances. But we’ve been inundated with “convenience” and a throw-away ethos. In the swirl of debris, from food shopping to consumer goods, plastic is the unseen background of daily living. Besides the blight of plastic itself, a mad scientist's brew of toxic chemicals is leaching into our bodies. We have learned that every human being has traces of plastic polymers in their bloodstream. That’s the bad news we live with these days. There really is no choice when asked "for here or to go?"

Ride-On, 2024 (above) featuring all-black plastic and a toy ATV, was exhibited recently in the exhibition “Far away is NOW” at 120710 gallery in Berkeley. "It is a complex reminder of our actions and their consequences on our environment,” says Francis Baker, the exhibit’s curator. “Another revelation occurs when one realizes that this is just the all-black plastic. The artists are using this to symbolize oil. It also amazes me to think about how much plastic there is that washes up, that they collect, for them to have a pile this big of fully black pieces. This makes me realize what we as a society are doing to our environment.”

all of it (well, alot of it anyway), 2023 (below) was presented by FOR-SITE’s The Guardhouse project at Fort Mason, San Francisco, California, summer 2023. After nearly a quarter century of collaboration the Lang's excavated their two-ton collection of beach-found plastic objects to showcase a sampling of “all of it” so they might see our consumer choices reflected in their materials. This assorted thermoplastic junk-treasure dating back to as early as 1948 washed in from the Pacific Ocean onto one beach, a .6-mile stretch of the Point Reyes National Seashore, 50 miles north of San Francisco. The installation confronted the artists with evidence of this material continuing to amass not just in coastal deposits, but inside our bodies, and in the geological record of our time on planet earth. "all of it" was presented in partnership with Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture.

Judith Selby Lang, along with her partner Richard Lang, have rambled 1000 meters of tide line on Kehoe Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California, to gather plastic debris washing out of the Pacific Ocean and have collected over two tons of material. Their artwork has been featured in over seventy exhibitions in galleries and museums; educational and science centers including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Artist Windows, the United Nations World Environment Day, the Cummings Gallery at Stanford University, and the University of San Francisco. Exhibition venues include the California Academy of Sciences, Sausalito's Marine Mammal Center, The Oakland Museum, Hong Kong's Ocean Film Festival. They were cited as co-authors in a report from the University of Tokyo about concentrations of pollutants in plastic pellets published in the 2009 Marine Pollution Bulletin. TV segments have included appearances on the PBS Newshour, The Travel Channel, Wowow Tokyo and The Today Show. In talks about the project they have appeared at the Newseum in Washington, DC, The Dallas Art Museum, California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Oakland Museum, Oxbow School in Napa, CA, and California College of the Arts in SF. Their projects have been supported by the Feigenbaum Nii Foundation, the Arts and Healing Network and the Open Circle Foundation. Plastic Forever- Finding Meaning in the Mess is the working title for their forthcoming book about their art and plastic adventures. www.beachplastic.com

Featured images (top to bottom): ©Judith Selby Lang with Richard Lang, Unaccountable Proclivities, 2001; Unintended Consequences, photography exhibition at the U.S. Art in Embassies, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, September 2010 - June 2012; or here or to go? at Lands End at the former Cliff House, San Francisco, California, a FOR-SITE Foundation project, 11/07/21- 3/27/22; Ride-On, 2024, at 120710 gallery, Berkeley, California, January 2024; “all of it (well, alot of it anyway)” for FOR-SITE’s The Guardhouse project at Fort Mason, San Francisco, June 24 - August 31, 2023; portrait of the artists.

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