IN A BARN IN Forest Knolls artists Judith and Richard Lang look over heavy, synthetic fish-nets that were pulled from the belly of a sperm whale that washed up near McClures Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore in 2008.
It was the more than 450 pounds of nets that got stuck in the whale's digestive tract that ultimately killed it.
Now the Langs - who are married - are working with the Marine Mammal Center on artwork that will highlight the problem with trash in the world's ocean and its impact on marine life.
"When they opened the whale up it was filled with netting and plastic debris," said Judith Lang, as she held some of the 162 pounds of thick, heavy netting that will go into the project. "Just feel how heavy it is."
She and her husband have sorted through the material and will build a piece to be displayed at an exhibit called "The Ghost Below" which will open Dec. 1. at the mammal center in the Marin Headlands.
"We don't see it, but it is there," said Anne Veh of Mill Valley, curator of the exhibit, explaining its title. "And it is dangerous."
The Langs will begin work on their project at the mammal center on Monday and bring their creation to life.
"There is the push-pull of that feeling of wanting to be scared and frightened, this back and forth that kids go through," Judith Lang said. "We intend to have that element with this project in the embodiment of the sculpture that will be a monster."
The issue of ocean trash is monstrous problem and the statistics are grim. For every square mile of ocean, there are 46,000 bits of plastic, according to scientists, who have also documented the Pacific gyre, a floating garbage patch twice the size of Texas in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
The gyre was discovered a decade ago between Hawaii and California, and researchers say similar phenomena are likely elsewhere around the globe.
And ghost nets - the name given to nets lost or abandoned at sea - still end up snaring birds, fish and marine mammals, crabs and other sea creatures as they drift. Many of creatures die once caught in the floating debris. It is estimated that ghost nets account for approximately 10 percent of all marine debris.
The Langs will create their nine-foot tall "monster" of the nets found in the whale as well as material that has been plucked from the Pacific gyre.
"The plastic is here forever, it never leaves," Richard Lang said. "You can't approach this project without grief, but you have to turn it around."
Once it is up, mammal center officials hope the piece will get people to think about the issue of clean ecology.
"It's a perfect opportunity to communicate to people while they are at the mammal center," said Jim Oswald, mammal center spokesman. "It will send a message about trash and entanglement. It's not meant to be gloom and doom, but there is a message there: What can people do to stop trash from getting into the ocean?"
Contact Mark Prado via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
©2012 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)
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