Wavehuggers Q&A with Artist Katie Peck

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” - Ryunosuke Satoro

International Coastal Cleanup Day, on September 16, 2017, gathered thousands of volunteers around the world to help protect a special place: the ocean. At Huntington State Beach alone, there were over 500 volunteers that picked up over 450 pounds of trash, and that’s just a minuscule portion of what the entire group of volunteers around the world accomplished. One volunteer in particular, Katie Peck, is concerned with more than just cleaning the beaches; furthermore, she is focused on also educating the community on the trash picked up along the coasts and the destruction it has on our oceans. She communicates her research and findings through art. At this event, she unveiled her 8 foot tall, 10 foot wide sculpture of a wave made out of 200 pounds of trash that has been collected from various beach cleanups. Her art is unique and I was lucky enough to sit down for an interview with her:

Q: Tell me a bit about yourself and your artwork.

A: “I grew up in Northern California and was always connected to the beach. My family fished out of the Santa Cruz Harbor and we spent lots of time at the beach boogie boarding, building forts and hanging out as much as we could. I also have been swimming since I was a baby-competitively swimming at age five which led to playing water polo. I recently took up rowing in Newport Harbor. With all the time I have spent in the water, it truly is my sanctuary and I find it extremely important to take care of it.”

Q: When did you first realize your passion for art?

A: “It wasn’t until high school that I realized that I wanted to become an artist. My elementary school involved art in all subjects. I was diagnosed as dyslexic in first grade so I found many subjects a lot more difficult than most. I found my stride when I was creating and working on art. Art was where I could use my different viewpoints and problem solve to create something unique and allow my hands to express my thoughts. I have followed that passion and am finishing up my BFA in art at Chapman. I will be graduating this December and plan on working as an assistant for a sculptor.”

Q: What piece are you most proud of and why?

A: “My thesis I created last spring titled, You can break it, lose it, give it away and still have the love and memory of it. I am proud of this piece due to the amount of people that were involved in creating the 10 sculptures. The work is comprised of items that were gifted to me from people throughout my life, from preschool teachers, coaches, middle school friends, and family members, and a few important peoples items that have passed away. I then took these items and wove them around steel frames creating a variety of forms that ranged in size from three feet tall to eight feet tall.”

Q: Tell me a bit about your ocean pollution pieces.

A: “Over the summer, I was awarded a Fellowship through Chapman University. I researched ocean plastic pollution and then created a sculpture. I met with local clean up groups and spoke with scientists to learn more on the subject. Throughout the summer I was also collecting and then cleaning the trash that was being collected at beach cleanups to create a meaningful sculpture for the community. Through creating small models and discovering what I could do with collected trash I came to the idea of encounter a wave of pollution.”

Q: What inspired those pieces?

A: “With recent cuts to different organizations whose goal is to protect and clean our coastlines and oceans, I found it was important for me to use my abilities to visualize what was happening. I also wanted to create a work on a large scale that could be taken apart and be put back together to have the most impact on large groups of people.”

Q: What do you hope people will get out of your ocean pollution work?

A: “The goal of this work is to help people realize the variety of trash that is being collected off of the beaches by volunteers. Also, to have a first hand experience rather than being told statistics they can see in person the items that are being found in large quantities. I hope that by seeing it in person, it will start the conversation on how to make changes within their own lives to produce less plastic trash. Changes such as less single use plastics such as straws, utensils, and to-go containers.”

Q: What do you hope to do with your art in the future?

A: “I plan on continuing to work with ocean trash as a medium and see where it takes me. It’s a huge issue that is now with small plastic particles being within our food chain and our own bodies. I hope that my artwork creates an impact through younger generations where they can begin to make an impact with their choices from an early age. I plan on showing my sculpture at my elementary school and talking with the students about what they can do!”

Checkout Katie’s work on her website here. Join her in the movement to keep our beaches clean and educate community members too. Whatever your inspiration is, follow it.

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