A local artist took a year’s worth of soft plastic packaging destined for the Hartland recycling facility, and instead upcycled it into a mermaid.
Tanya Bub’s giant, colourful mermaid was on display at Oak Bay Marina in February and at the Gage Gallery on Oak Bay Avenue before that. She created it using various plastics saved by Elizabeth Vibert’s family of four.
“It was one massive plastic bag full – like a large, clear garbage bag,” said Vibert, an associate professor of history at the University of Victoria. “I had mixed feelings about the mermaid. She’s gorgeous and hopeful – and she’s a creature of the same sea that we’re slowly poisoning with our plastics.”
Bub and Vibert have been friends a while. The topic came up in a conversation about Bub’s new sculpture form using wire mesh frames.
“I don’t like to buy materials,” said Bub, who has gained a lot of fame lately for her extravagant driftwood sculptures, such as the five-foot-tall Takaya wolf that was at the Empress Hotel last year.
Her goal for the wire mesh mermaid was to get the Gage Gallery more notice.
Bub loved the bright colours of the plastic bags and used them to full effect in the mermaid but again, the mermaid is an “upcycled” piece of plastic that stands for something.
“The first idea was something that would go through the [Gage Gallery] window, cross the boundary of the window, and draw people from outside to inside,” Bub said.
Since last year Bub’s use of wire has grown and she’s sold many sculptures that are just that. However, the magnitude of the mermaid was lost and in need of substance and colour, she said.
“But if I was to add to it, it also needed waterproofing for outdoors. Even driftwood is difficult to make weatherproof,” Bub said.
Hence, she turned to recycled plastic, but found she only had about a month’s worth.
“What [Vibert] gave me had an incredible colour palette. It had 10 rice bags of the same purple” Bub said.
So while it didn’t start out that way, the plastic mermaid is now a signal for humanity’s plastic problem.
“Plastic flows into the ocean are expected to triple in the next 20 years: that’s completely horrifying, but we can change it. We can reduce our waste – it’s more important than recycling. We can press governments for policy, and pressure companies to stop the endless stream of disposable, discard-able stuff,” Vibert said.
Bub’s next show is a series of driftwood animals, including birds and big cats, that were made to be at the opening of the Malahat Skywalk. Because the Skywalk’s opening is delayed she is in the process of signing a deal to show them at the Bay Centre in Victoria.
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