Sea Change: Ocean Trash Transformed into Fishy Sculptures for Bay Area Exhibit

“Giant Fish” and “Giant Sea Turtle,” sculptures created by artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi and a team of volunteers from washed-up ocean debris.

At first glance, the giant fish that will soon greet visitors to the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, looks like a whimsical nod to the nonprofit veterinary hospital and research center’s aquatic patient population. In fact, 16-foot-long Henry (as he is known to friends) is a colorful jumble of plastic bits, aluminum cans, dish soap bottles, lids, buoys, toys, and toothbrushes that washed up on nearby beaches. He is the creation of Oregon-based artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi and her team of volunteers, who transformed the 7,000 pounds of ocean trash they collected into sculptures of marine life threatened by the detritus.

Henry and 14 more of Pozzi’s artworks—including a giant squid and a reef of scavenged styrofoam—will go on view Saturday in “Washed Ashore: Plastics, Sea Life, and Art,” a free exhibition that runs through October 15 at the Marine Mammal Center. According to executive director Jeff Boehm, as many as 10% of the hospital’s admissions (think elephant seals, harbor seals, and California sea lions) are due to human interactions, including those related to entanglements in trash. “As the beaches around the world wash up more stuff from the land and less from the sea I believe we must examine our relationship to rivers and oceans,” notes Pozzi, who grew up wading in the Pacific ocean and digging in the muck of Puget Sound. “I attempt to scoop up part of what might be below the blue waters and place it in front of us. In some ways it may be an escape, but at the same time a confrontation.”