OCEAN CITY – Piles of trash found along the beach at Assateague Island are now part of two eclectic sculptures that will raise public awareness of beach litter and the impacts it has on land and marine animals.
Throughout the month of November, the Art League of Ocean City is featuring two sculptures – one of a horse and the other of a bottlenose dolphin – made of trash found on Assateague Island. The art installation is in conjunction with a month-long exhibition that features artwork made with discarded materials.
Beginning last year, the Art League of Ocean City partnered with Alex Ottenstein and his group, “Get Trash(ed) on Assateague,” as well as local artists Debbi Dean-Colley, Kathy Denk, Heather Layton and Steve Shreve to repurpose beach litter into works of art.
Dean-Colley, an outreach and volunteer coordinator with the Art League, said the project was a labor of love for all involved.
“It was a collaboration between quite a few artists …,” she said. “This was also a collaboration of the community.”
Ottenstein, whose group collects, recycles and shares pictures of trash found on the beaches of Assateague Island, said Dean-Colley reached out to him last year after he shared a video of upcycled artwork on the group’s Facebook page.
With Dean-Colley’s encouragement to turn the group’s trash into artwork, Ottenstein began saving items he found on Assateague.
“I pick up a lot of the trash and I save a lot of stuff I would consider usable,” he said. “So I started to gather a pile to pick from.”
Ottenstein said pieces of trash used in the sculptures, including plastic bottles, buoys, air conditioning coils and the fenders of a four-wheeler, for example, were all found on Assateague Island.
“I had two office-size rooms at my shop that were completely filled with trash,” he said. “One side had metal and plastic and the other side had toys. There was a lot more trash gathered than what was used.”
With Ottenstein’s help and the artists’ creativity, the group soon developed a plan to incorporate the miscellaneous objects into sculptures of a pony and a bottlenose dolphin, animals frequently seen during visits to Assateague Island.
Dean-Colley said elements from the sculpture will remind those that view the artwork to keep the beaches clean and protect surrounding wildlife. A piece of green plastic sticking out of the pony’s mouth, for example, is meant to represent grass and teaches beach-goer that “a fed horse is a dead horse,” a campaign officials with the Assateague Island Alliance recently launched.
Shreve, who worked with the group to build the wooden structure supporting the pony’s head, said he was excited to be a part of the project.
“Most of my artwork is salvaged,” he said. “I use old steel and old wood, so it was right up my alley.”
Shreve said working alongside fellow artists was equally rewarding.
“We came together as an awesome team to get the message out there,” he said.
Once the Art League of Ocean City ends its “Reimagined” art exhibit, the two sculptures will be sent to the Assateague Island Visitor Center where it will remain on display until Labor Day of 2018.