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County artists turn plastics into large-scale art

Krista Dalby and Nella Casson with their 13-foot fish with gnashing jaws entitled ‘Plastic Bites Back’ – Randy deKleine Stimpson photo

Local artists are expanding their work with a series of projects that reclaim what people throw away. Long known for their use of recycled materials, notably cardboard and textiles, members of the County’s ‘Department of Illumination’ were inspired to branch out with plastic thanks to an invitation from an arts organization in Kingston.

The group was recently commissioned by Kingston’s Calliope Collective to create a float for Hydra, a pilot project that took place in early June in the waters adjacent Douglas Fluhrer Park.

Designed as a ‘water parade,’ the overall theme of the event was water, and The Department of Illumination was asked to focus on the topic of plastic pollution.

“We wanted to create something beautiful while at the same time addressing the pervasiveness of plastic pollution in our waterways,” said Krista Dalby, Artistic Director. “The resulting work is a 13-foot rather menacing fish with gnashing jaws entitled ‘Plastic Bites Back’. It was attached to a floating dock and towed by a team of kayakers in order to minimize environmental impact.”

The Department of Illumination, best known for its joyful events including The Firelight Lantern Festival and Ice Box, embraced the months of pandemic restrictions to develop this labour-intensive artwork.

For six months the artists solicited the community to bring them their plastic recycling, and they collected more than 200 laundry detergent and water jugs which they painstakingly cut into fish scales.

Lead artists Dalby and Nella Casson constructed a lightweight frame out of cane, bamboo and wood, and then covered it in the plastic scales.

Dalby and Casson were so inspired by working with plastic that they’re once again turning to the community to ask for their help.

All summer long they will be collecting plastic pool or beach inflatables, even those with holes, diverting waste from landfill to create another large-scale artwork. They will be collecting these inflatables at the Mustang Drive-In Trunk Shows on July 25, Aug. 8 and Aug. 15. Admission is free of charge. If you can’t drop-off floaties those days, contact Krista to arrange a pick-up:


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