Raising awareness about ocean trash – with art

KANEOHE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Local artist Shannon McCarthy literally stumbled across her latest inspiration.

"It took me running Kailua beach actually, seeing it wash up," she said. "I thought, 'Wow, this is very colorful and very awful.'"

She's talking about marine debris.

And that fateful beach run was three years ago.

Since then, she's taken that trash and turned it into treasure, using it to create a stunning array of mosaics and other art pieces.

"Medium is essentially the message," she said. "Whatever material you're using is first and foremost going to convey whatever feeling you want to portray."

Creating the art is a tedious, painstaking process that begins, of course, with collecting the debris.

McCarthy says the debris is so prevalent in the ocean, it's easy to predict when there will be surges of it washing up onshore.

"After a storm there's a lot," she said, adding, "So much of this plastic ends up in the ocean. If it's not completely pulverized, it's eaten. The reds and purples look like organic krill so they're eaten by fish."

Unlike the materials, McCarthy's finished products are eye-catching -- and alarming. 

And while her works fetch from hundreds to thousands of dollars, it's her message that matters most.

"They're conversation pieces," she said, "and that's kind of the point for me."

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