Flotsam Clusters “Nothing New”
Project of digitally prepared prints, found object sculpture and installations
2005 - 2014 • Lowell Nickel
Nearly ten years ago I started collecting and photographing flotsam and jetsam from our Southern California beaches. As I began photographing these objects in clusters, initially small groups as photomontage, these “trashy” compositions like the flotsam, expanded. I continued toying with these beached found objects. Assembling, structuring and composing I watch this theme evolve with a playful sense of irony. All that weathered junk became re-presented as worthy subject matter having, but are not limited to, properties of some elegance… more then attractive or even decorative deliberations of rubbish. Most often, these formal clusters are flowing within an atmospheric darkness suggesting a transitional or ephemeral contact. The vision quest with these cluster compositions is to find a kind of lyrical renewal... a “beautiful” documentation for our own beached cast offs.
A lifetime of beach combing initially influenced the conceptual base for this project. I cut my teeth on the beaches where the LA ”sewer meets the sea” Playa Del Rey, CA. As I have logged decades of surfing, combing and musing on the world’s beaches a real life narrative came along to support this odd even obsessive "Flotsam" art making practice.
The public recognition of the North Pacific Gyre, also know as “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” may have given new readings for these idealized compositions. These compositions can now be recordings of real or imagined great stormy seas of flotsam & jetsam. Providing this context is not necessary but by displaying this decomposing stuff as art, I would hope to slyly seduce viewers with critical inquiry.
There’s nothing new here… it is all just repackaged and recycled. These images and installation work may even challenge the viewer to consider tracking ones own steps (see “Foot-ware" installation) relative to a personal recognition of a much larger cultural foot print.
Faux Stones: The California East Mojave desert is an expansive area that is to be walked upon. The washes and alluvium fans are to be explored if not just for the pleasures of place but to aid recover from NDD (Nature Deficit Disorder). This Faux Stone project is a annual transendent ritual for me as I will (GPS) site these stoneware objects back to from whence it came. This annual trekk has become a pilgimage for me.