Our Exquisite Pollution

The art of Sandra Hansen is a statement on the enormous problem of water pollution and its effect on the ecosystems of Planet Earth's oceans, lakes and rivers. Chemical contamination has long been recognized but now a growing body of evidence points to the role of plastics in polluting our water and killing the creatures, great and small, that live there.

Hansen makes paper. Her papers are big and beautiful and made almost completely from trash. I spent a day in her studio documenting the creation of one of her papers. Instead of a canvas, she uses a mold and deckle. Buckets, pulleys and clamps replace brushes and pallets. An old shirt provides the blue color. Nylon twine, fibers from a fringe and a fishing net are infused into the piece. And, the trash ends up in the belly of the fish.

I've seen Hansen's papers. They are exquisite. It was a pleasure to spend the day with her in her studio. The photo shoot was subsequently published in 2019 in the Art & Trip Magazine in Beijing, China.

The Studio

This is Sandra in her studio. It's a lovely space, full of natural light. The mold to make paper is suspended from the ceiling on pulleys.

The Canvas

The 'canvas' for paper making consists of a mold and deckle. The mold itself is what you see under the water. The deckle is the wooden frame that surrounds the mold. The entire contraption is clamped down to ensure stability.

The mold has been lowered and filled with clean water. Let the process begin.

Preparing the Canvas

Water bubbles under the surface keeps the pulp from lying flat on the mold. Sandra sets the trapped air free by gently dabbing the water.

The Tools

Hands replace brushes. Buckets replace pallettes. 

The Paint

The prepared pulp, colored with an environmentally sustainable pigment to create a beautiful shade of aquamarine, is poured into the mold, bucket by bucket. The color came of from an old shirt. Reuse, reduce and recycle...

Beautiful and Deadly

This is a close up of the fishing net Sandra will use. Shot with a bokeh of lovely light reflecting off the water, it is a pleasing if somewhat abstract image. Yet, we can see how, once entangled, there's no getting out of it. The marine life eats it, gets wrapped up in it; the net has no mercy and makes no choices. It ensnares everything in its path.

Adding the Fish

Large syringes apply the paint and Sandra uses her fingers to move it into shapes. The fish are created amongst the net and twine. An accurate testimony to the reality in our oceans.

The Art

As you can see by the darkness outside, it has taken all day to create this paper. Using ropes and pulleys, Sandra lifts one end of the mold and deckle from the water. Depending on the conditions, it will take another one to three days for the paper to dry. Once dry, a frame is attached so the piece can be hung. And, another work of "Our Exquisite Pollution" is completed.


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