University of Wisconsin--Stout. Office of Research and Sponsored Programs
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I aim to expose the contradictory nature of the high value that our consumerist culture places upon the use of cheap goods, as well as the harmful habits and outcomes associated with it. In my work, I explore the crisis of plastic pollution and how it relates to the wasteful habits that today’s throwaway society has perpetuated. By incorporating single-use plastics into jewelry alongside precious metals and gemstones, cheaply made throwaway goods are transformed into precious and wearable status symbols. Excessive waste of single-use plastics is a result of an increasingly fast-paced world in which consumerism is everywhere we look; and with consumerism comes plastic waste. Many plastics such as grocery bags, soda bottles, and various types of packaging are used for a short amount of time, sometimes only minutes, before we dispose of them. Once disposed of, they take hundreds of years to break down. During this long process, these objects find their way into bodies of water and soils, leaching away chemicals and toxins into their surroundings. In my work, I use single-use plastics as a symbol of modern-day consumerism. When paired with precious metals and gemstones, a relationship is created between the contrasting materials which relates to the perceived value of single-use products. Although we don’t directly perceive single-use goods to be “valuable” per se, there is value in what is convenient and cheap, and what makes our lives easier in an immediate way. While my work focuses primarily on single-use plastics, it also references other wasteful practices such as planned obsolescence, and the irresponsible use of non-renewable resources. People in today’s consumerist culture tend to gravitate towards the most expensive products with an excess of unnecessary features; for example, a refrigerator with a built-in computer, or yet another device to communicate with the rest of their household devices. These products have become a sort of status symbol for those who own them. The desire to express one’s status through these objects is mirrored in my work through the use of precious metals and gemstones. Art-making can be an extremely wasteful practice, and my aim is to minimize this waste as much as possible. I do this by using ethically sourced or recycled metals and gemstones, as well as giving single-use plastics another life. In creating this body of work, I do not claim to have all the answers, nor do I claim to be free of fault. Rather, this work allows me to identify the issues to myself and to viewers, as well as work through my own wasteful habits. My work is a representation of the value that our throwaway society places upon convenience. I create these pieces to serve as a tangible reminder of our responsibilities for our planet, and to encourage mindfulness about our own wasteful tendencies.
Strangstalien, A. (2021). Excess. University of Wisconsin-Stout Journal of Student Research, 19, 124-128.