Wildling Museum debuts new long-term installation by artist Elizabeth Criss
From the sidewalk and walking into “Message in a Bottle,” viewers are immersed in an underwater world that presents simultaneously playful and wary sea life.
Translucent-colored plastic glints in the sunlight like pieces of lost treasure as sunbeams filter through the round room.
Repurposed plastics in the form of painted wide-eyed PVC fish, hanging strands of medicine bottle kelp and intricately cut jellyfish created from liter soda bottles make the space home.
A raised relief porthole looks out to an underwater landscape of coral and fish, surrounded by mounted glass bottles that tumble across the walls. Etched designs embellish the upcycled bottles with detailed images of sea life and carved messages, creating a sense of wonder while making calls for action.
Featuring Northridge-based artist Elizabeth Criss, as well as work by glass artist Sari Scheer, “Message in a Bottle” is on view through February 2024 in
the Michele Kuelbs Tower Gallery at the Wildling Museum of Art and Nature in Solvang.
This long-term installation marks the third iteration of the museum’s tower installation program, which highlights Southern California artists inspired by the environment and provides an indoor-outdoor art experience for Solvang visitors.
Ms. Criss’s proposal was selected from the museum’s 2023 request for artist proposals focusing on environmental impacts on the ocean.
“We received several strong proposals for the space this year and felt that Elizabeth struck just the right tone with important environmental messaging about the harm of plastics in our oceans while done in a creative and family-friendly way,” said Stacey Otte-Demangate, Wildling Museum executive director. “The installation also has amazing curb appeal from the street at night, so its important message resonates 24/7.”
Ms. Criss’s installation invokes viewers to consider their impact on the ocean.
“We can end this plastic tide, it’s true. This installation gave me an opportunity to raise awareness about the critical problem of plastic pollution in our oceans and the damage it causes to their delicate ecosystems,” said Ms. Criss. “I hope the Michele Kuelbs Tower Gallery installation evokes the beauty and diversity of the marine world and inspires viewers to take action to protect our planet’s resources for future generations.”
In her artist statement, Ms. Criss described “Message in a Bottle” as a “lively installation that illustrates the harmful impact of single-use plastics on our oceans. It features a dynamic swirl of marine life that celebrates the incredible beauty and diversity of the ocean world, drawing attention to the astonishing richness of our planet’s underwater ecosystem.
“Much of the artwork is constructed with discarded plastics, serving as a poignant reminder of the urgent need to reduce plastic waste and promote environmentally sustainable practices.
“A backdrop of bottles offers messages from the ocean and its inhabitants, conveying the profound impact that neglectful plastic management inflicts on our marine ecosystems. Through this artwork, I aim to inspire viewers to
reflect on their plastic consumption and consider the actions they can take to minimize their plastic footprint.
“Whether through selecting sustainable alternatives or repurposing plastics creatively, every individual can make a difference. Ultimately, ‘Message in a Bottle’ is a pointed call to action, imploring us all to take responsibility for our role in safeguarding our planet and its precious resources.
“By recognizing the problems and developing collective
strategies, we can combat plastic pollution and preserve the vitality of our oceans for generations to come. I hope that this installation will highlight the beauty of the ocean world and encourage viewers to take action to protect it, one small step at a time.”
A Los Angeles native who earned her bachelor’s degree in art from
Cal State Northridge, Ms. Criss explores complex and
wondrous aspects of everyday life, with environmental concern for sustainability evident through her use of repurposed materials. She aims to inspire viewers to consider their environmental impact by highlighting the negative consequences of disposable conveniences for future generations.
Her passion for public art installations is a defining feature of her work. She has created murals and dimensional installations for schools, special needs programs and public libraries that have engaged and inspired viewers.
Ms. Criss’s artistic calling came when she enrolled her non-verbal daughter in a special education school filled with dreary corridors. She dedicated a decade to transforming the school’s hallways with innovative assemblage panoramas and vibrant colors, providing motivation for children to communicate and realize their potential.
Recently, Ms. Criss completed FISHNADO at the Therapeutic Living Centers for the Blind, supported by a grant from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. Her tactile techniques resonated with individuals who face visual and intellectual challenges, fostering shared positive experiences and offering reassurance that remarkable accomplishments are achievable despite daunting challenges.
Sari Scheer is a glass artist who creates unique works from recycled wine bottles and window glass. Motivated by the idea of combining creativity and sustainability, she uses her art to promote environmental awareness and encourage people to rethink their relationship with the planet.
Ms. Scheer’s artistic process involves repurposing discarded wine bottles into works of art that showcase the versatility and beauty of this often-neglected material. She creates each piece with a sense of curiosity and experimentation, utilizing techniques like etching, sandblasting, torchwork and kiln firing to create intricate and distinctive art pieces.
For Ms. Scheer, art is a powerful tool for expressing her commitment to sustainability and social responsibility. She believes that art has the power to inspire and provoke thought, and she aims to use her skills to spark conversations and potentially drive behavioral changes.
Ultimately, Ms.Scheer strives to create visually stunning and socially conscious works of art that encourage viewers to reflect on their personal relationship with the environment and consider the impact of their actions now and on future generations.