Almost any day of the week, Kristin Myers heads out to the beach with a trashbag.
If the waves are good, she’ll bring along her surfboard, too. But no matter what, she always has some way to collect the plastic bottles, silvery mylar birthday balloons, hypodermic needles and other ubiquitous detritus brought in by the tides.
“Basically, I pick up anything that doesn’t belong,” says Myers, who lives in Surf City, New Jersey, part of the area battered by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
While cleaning up the beach is noble, it’s hardly exceptional, though what she does next is: She takes the garbage home and makes a study of the rusted beer cans and sun-bleached rubber gloves, drawing their details in simple lines until they become tangled with a certain ethereal beauty. A scrap of rubber becomes a complex form, a plastic cup layered with fishing line enchants the eye.
“It’s a way to create awareness of the garbage we create,” she explains. “My hope is that it will cause a ripple effect.”
Myers has assembled a dozen of these ink-on-vellum pieces in the collection “From Tides to Trash,” currently showing at Fresh Exhibitions in the Starland District. The gallery will host an artist’s reception this Friday, March 7 as part of the First Friday Art March, and the exhibit will justly close with a beach clean-up on Tybee Island Saturday, March 15.
Also included in the show are several encaustic works, the precise black lines of the found garbage coated with melted blue paraffin.
“It reminds me of surf wax,” says the artist with a grin.
A graduate of SCAD’s painting program, Myers earned her MFA from Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia last year and returned home to draw, surf and steward her beloved stretch of the Jersey Shore. (With her California blond hair and aquamarine eyes, she hardly fits the reality-show cliché and doesn’t mind being called the “Anti-Snookie.”)
She is happy to be back in Savannah for the exhibit, and yes, the avid surfer brought her board should the waves at Tybee call. She is represented by New Jersey’s m.t. burton gallery, and this is her first show with Fresh Exhibitions, the gallery arm of Art Rise Savannah.
Formerly known as Desotorow, Art Rise Savannah is the tremendous organizing force behind the increasingly well-attended First Friday Art March and and the national online art magazine The Savannah Art Informer.
“We want to cover the whole spectrum,” says ArtRise Executive Director Clinton Edminster, pointing out that the organization’s mission includes hosting community events and creating financial opportunities for local artists.
“We’re developing the capillaries so that artists and the people who want to appreciate and buy art can be very close.”
The Art Rise community often spills over into Savannah’s activism circles, and those who appreciate art as well as the environment will applaud Myers’ effort to link her trash-to-treasure drawings with a local cause. All stretches of sand remain dear to her heart, and for the interactive part of her Fresh Exhibitions show she called on Clean Coast Savannah to help her organize a beach clean-up on Tybee.
“Maybe picking up trash for one day doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s a positive action that people can take,” says Karen Grainey, president of Clean Coast.
“If you’re someone who’s concerned about the world, it’s a way to bond with people who feel the same way.”
Grainey, who is also active in the local chapter of the Sierra Club, reminds that Clean Coast hosts regular beach clean-ups on Georgia’s heavily-used beaches as well as isolated spots like Ossabaw and Wassaw islands. Such places may only be accessible by boat, but as those who spend time on the water know, the tides take our garbage even where humans can’t reach. (The Great Pacific Garbage Patch—thousands of miles wide and growing—is a horrific example.)
“I know I’ll never clean up all the trash, but it’s better than ignoring it,” says Myers, who is offering free prints of an original piece to the first two dozen volunteers at the Mar. 15 clean-up. In the same vein of “every little bit counts,” she’s also trying to source biodegradable burlap bags from local coffee roasters rather than use plastic ones.
Myers will return to Surf City after her Savannah show and a bit of wave-shredding at Tybee. But regardless of what part of the coast she finds herself, she’ll likely always carry a bag to collect the trash she’ll inevitably encounter.
The artist and soul surfer also promises her muse will remain the same:
“My work will always be about the ocean.”